I eat to live. Since I enjoy living a healthy life, I eat healthy to live healthy. For me being health conscious is just living mindfully which helps me be more clear and balanced, not only physically but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Thus, I am a conscious eater which some might coin as “picky.” I am okay with that as it is part of who I am. But as you are traveling some things become out of your control, such as food, and I have had to make peace with that.
In my “nutrition peace voyage” I found myself in uncharted waters at times. I am learning that Southeast Asia specializes in food and capitalizes on their bountiful fruits and vegetables. I have been in mango and papaya heaven. But I could not just live on fruit as Charlotte lived on chocolate pudding in Mexico in the movie Sex And The City. I have had to balance trying new foods while also making sure it is clean and edible. Thus, I ventured out of my comfort zone in Cambodia and tried tarantula and cricket. Surprisingly, the tarantula was my favorite as it tasted, no not like chicken, but like stir fry. As I ate it, it just went to show it was more of a mental obstacle rather than taste as I truly enjoyed it but my stomach did turn at the thought of eating this hairy spider. Also in Cambodia I did have to try a mystery meat a time or two for breakfast but quickly got off that train and found some muesli at the supermarket. As much as it is fun to adopt the food of another culture there is still something about having just one comfort that gives you a moment of reprieve from always sitting down to a true “mystery meal.”
I do admire Southeast Asia for their fine fresh markets. Again, some parts make my stomach turn as they were so fresh with dead meat, so fresh that on an early Tuesday morning I saw a duck recently chopped in half with his wings still flapping. That image was the price I had to pay for some beautiful papayas sold at the vendor next door. Yet,I am still inspired by the freshness of the food and how much care is taken into preparing a meal.
In Chiang Mai we signed up for a cooking class for Garnett’s birthday. This was heaven for him as he lives to eat, very opposite from me. Nonetheless, we found a common ground this day preparing authentic and fresh Thai dishes with me sticking to the more healthy options and Garnett on the fried side with the fried spring rolls and fried bananas. I truly enjoyed the cooking class more than I had expected. We started the day by going to the market to purchase our fresh food and then the day whizzed by as I learned how to make a coconut soup, papaya salad, green curry paste, and mango sticky rice. I have all the recipes to try at home although it won’t be same without my wonderful Thai chef standing behind me telling me when it was time to add the oyster sauce, oil, salt, etc. I asked her to come home with me but I think she likes her day job. Ha ha. Although maybe it is best she stays in Thailand as she kept telling me if I ate more spicy food I would be sexier. This left my dishes and self-esteem very unsexy as I couldn’t add as much sex as she suggested. My poor taste buds had to draw the line somewhere so I could enjoy the food. Thus, I succumbed to the unsexy.
One thing I had not counted on throughout the day was the friendships that were built as a group of strangers learned how to make Thai food. We all came from different countries, at times spoke different languages, but as the day progressed we let the common thread of learning about Thai food form the basis of wonderful conversations. I shared stories of Cambodia to 2 fellows who also just left there and fell in love with the authenticity as I did. I used my Spanish with a wonderful woman from Madrid. This was a toughie as trying to use my brain to speak a second language while I am trying to chop chillies is a cooking hazard like leaving the stove on. Finally, meeting a woman that is from where I am headed, Greenville SC, and a man heading to where I am coming from, NZ.
It is really a small world when in Chiang Mai, Thailand you meet someone at your table from South Carolina, yet it somehow makes sense. As the man headed to NZ talked about his journey from teaching in the UK to seeing what else he might be good at doing and letting NZ open that door, I am brought to reflect on how we are all on a journey of some sort in search of something more. On this day that something more happened to bring us all together to embrace Thai cooking. In this curiosity, we all appreciated one another, our journeys, and the “sexiness” of Thai food, or lack there of in the case of my dishes. In the end, it is inspiring to know that with an inquisitive mind in this journey of life you never know what you might end up eating, like tarantula, or who you might meet along the way. Either way, all precious gifts to a traveler.