I believe in karma on a very personal level. When I say that, I mean that the rules of karma don’t apply to everyone — look at Donald Trump, or the expats who populate the Thai Visa forum — but they definitely apply to me. I am always met with an instance in which I criticize someone for something that I end up doing later on. That is hypocrisy, yes, but it is also karma: a lesson for oneself that they are not immune.
I like to think that I am fairly open-minded when it comes to Thai food; I say “fairly” because, in the immortal non-words of Prince, let’s not go crazy, I’m not going to order a green curry pizza anytime soon. But I believe in different expressions in the same vein, that authenticity is an illusion kept alive by gatekeepers, that time and surroundings must be allowed to shape the ways that food evolves. To illustrate this in another way: I have practiced yoga enough to have philosophies and opinions on it, and I firmly believe that there is no such thing as the “right” way to do an pose, since people’s bodies are all different. In other words, Iyengar yoga is the same thing as the Thai traditionalists railing against the passage of time — a joke.
This is why I have frequently and forcefully made fun of a past Thai government initiative to build a Thai food robot that would determine the “authenticity” of Thai dishes made abroad, in a vain attempt to bring people the gospel of “real” Thai food. Economics, different tastes, reality — all of those things are anathema to this aspiration, the culinary equivalent of Don Quixote tilting at windmills. After much derision from the international media, the food robot scheme fell silent, but I still bring it up often, because it is funny, and also, in a way, very Thai.
So imagine the internal struggle when I am seated at a very high-end and critically acclaimed Thai restaurant in the States and order gaeng som (sour curry), one of my favorite Thai dishes ever. And I get this:
In the meantime, I’ll be looking forward to having some Thai food in Thailand next week.