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Posted by Jessica on Apr 17, 2009
Missing Thailand

I have recently come to the realization that I am cursed. No matter how hard I try, I just cannot get my Pad Thai to taste like it did from the street carts in Bangkok. For the rest of my life, I will be forced to pay $1,600 in airfare every time I want to eat proper Pad Thai.

This sad realization struck me on my way home from our local library this morning. At the library I had my first English tutoring session with my Thai student, Bee. She is incredibly sweet and her 1-year-old son is about the cutest little guy I've ever seen. And we had a wonderful time getting to know one another and talking about her goals for learning English. (Her son, Boon, meanwhile enjoyed racing around the library meeting new people. He was quite the social butterfly!)

Bee's face would light up every time I used one of the handful of words I know in Thai. "You speak Thai too?," she asked excitedly. Shaking my head no, I replied "Nit noi" which means "a little bit" in Thai.

(What I didn't mention, though, was how I knew the phrase "nit noi." As you may remember, we adopted our dog Belly from Elephant Nature Park in Thailand. And although Belly lives with us in America, he has a sister who still lives quite happily at the Park. They look quite similar, but she's about half his size. So what better name to call her than "Nit Noi" or "A Little Bit"?)

Before we got started on our English lesson for the day, Bee and I spent some time talking about Thailand. We talked about our favorite places to visit, where she's from and where her family lives now, and the classes she took while at university in Bangkok. At one point I mentioned living at an elephant sanctuary for two months. And when I referenced Lek's name in passing, she immediately said, "I think I see her on TV here in America too, yes?" (Bee has clearly been watching Animal Planet or National Geographic!) Talking a bit more about Lek and the elephant sanctuary, it was really special to hear how highly Bee thought of her.

Tim and I feel lucky to have such a special connection to the Park and to Thailand. It feels like a little bit of us is always there, while a large (and fuzzy four-legged!) part of Thailand is always here with us. And it helps that we email often with our friends who live and work at the Park. (Plus there's always the fun work we get to do on their website too.) But there is nothing that compares to being woken up in the morning when an elephant is scratching her back on your hut. Or to seeing a mama elephant play with her baby while the sun sets behind the surrounding mountains. Or to hearing a family of elephants snore (and fart!) in unison under the cover of darkness.

Because the Park is part of our day-to-day life in America, I think it's very easy for us to forget to include Thailand on our list of countries we want to visit each year. We hope to visit Colombia and India later this year (and perhaps return to Turkey), but I don't think we can swing Thailand too. I suppose there's always next year though, right?

Before leaving today, Bee mentioned she has a picture book with English and Thai words in it. And she asked if I would like her to teach me some more Thai words for the next time I go back to Thailand. Responding enthusiastically, I said I would love it if she would teach me more Thai. Of course, what I didn't mention yet is that I hope one day she'll teach me how to make Pad Thai better too. Maybe that can be our third lesson together.

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Shana
April 17, 2009 at 9:40pm
Oh, to be spoiled for Pad Thai! It's so sad, in a way. ;)

Bee sounds like a great connection to a place that you love! I'm sure it'll be fun to exercise your Thai-speaking+cultural muscle, too.

Jessica the hedgehog
April 17, 2009 at 10:03pm
It truly is quite horrible to travel to the country where your favorite food is from! :)

*nodding* I think it's going to be a lot of fun to work with Bee too. I'm really looking forward to reminding myself of Thai-isms. (Belly isn't really forthcoming, you know.) :)

Jessica the hedgehog
April 17, 2009 at 10:08pm

It truly is quite horrible to travel to the country where your favorite food is from!

Actually, it's quite lovely to travel to that country…but it's quite horrible to come home and not have the faintest clue how to make your favorite food just right. Oi. :(

Janet
April 21, 2009 at 3:50am
I think you need to keep a cookbook journal.
Deb
April 21, 2009 at 10:44am
Alas, I fear your hopes are in vain…I have even taken Thai cooking classes and have neither been able to make nor buy Pad Thai outside of Thailand that tastes as delicious as the street vendors in Thailand…I think it is the location itself that adds the proper flavour :)
Noah
April 21, 2009 at 8:44pm
I think Deb might be right. There are so many factors that go into our enjoyment of a dish, and there's something really special about certain places to us, too. Oysters at Acme Oyster House in New Orleans. A great ribeye steak in Omaha. Cod tongues in St. John's. My solution to special foods in special places is to visit the special places regularly, and enjoy the special foods when we're there.

That said, I'm sure you can learn some great cooking tricks to improve your Pad Thai (which I'm also sure is excellent).

Jessica the hedgehog
April 22, 2009 at 1:49pm

Janet – Heh, if I kept a cookbook blog too I'd get absolutely no work done. Food and travel are two of my most favorite subjects. :)
Jessica the hedgehog
April 22, 2009 at 1:54pm

I have even taken Thai cooking classes and have neither been able to make nor buy Pad Thai outside of Thailand that tastes as delicious as the street vendors in Thailand…

Deb – I'm encouraged to hear I'm not the only one! And I think you're totally right: location is probably a key ingredient and there's just no replacing it. :)

Jessica the hedgehog
April 22, 2009 at 1:56pm

My solution to special foods in special places is to visit the special places regularly, and enjoy the special foods when we're there.

Noah – I admire your approach, good sir. Clearly Tim and I are going to have to get back to Thailand sooner rather than later! (And we need to add St. John's and New Orleans to our list soon too.) :)

Emerald Flame
April 22, 2009 at 4:58pm
If you want good Pad Thai then come to Annapolis! They have a great resturant here with food you might like. As for the sound of elephant farts… just give me enough spicy food and I can mimic the sound for you. <img src=' style='position:relative;' height='17px' width='17px' />
Jessica the hedgehog
April 23, 2009 at 10:44am

As for the sound of elephant farts… just give me enough spicy food and I can mimic the sound for you.

LOL! Had I been drinking my Diet Coke when I first read your comment, I most certainly would have snorted some of it up my nose from laughing so much! :)

kane
February 5, 2010 at 10:54am
I know the best Pad Thai for me, plus with other food too.
February 8, 2010 at 4:34pm
We'll have to visit you one day so you can share your Pad Thai secrets! :)
Kane
February 9, 2010 at 2:05am
Sure! By the way, if you have facebook : added me pls, kane.chaisatien@gmail.com

you will see my hedgehogs too, eieiei

February 9, 2010 at 8:44am
Yeah, hedgehogs! :)

We haven't gotten facebook accounts yet; but if we do in the future, we'll be sure to add you. :)

Wasana
November 26, 2011 at 1:06am
Fortunate to be living back in Thailand again. hedgehogs are very popular here but sadly for reasons you probably would not appreciate.
November 28, 2011 at 8:49am
LOL!

We're very envious of you, Wasana – we still miss Thailand tremendously. :)


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