Lesson In Food Appreciation, Preparation And Dining

Fatigued physically and mentally from a second strenuous days trekking, tackling steep gradients and negotiating the rough terrains of the Chiang Mai Jungle, everybody began to crave for a good rest and most importantly a good meal.

Lunch time on our trek was non existent and I found myself reflecting upon home life. The smell of slow cooking lamb shanks filling the kitchen, whilst the potatoes crackled and the vegetables waited, freshly chopped, in the steamer. However, I could not help feeling a twinge of sadness, acknowledging how my home life had been taken for granted. I underappreciated the food that was always available to me, as I had never been in want of anything.

Entering cultivated paddy fields which indicated civilization, I became elated at the possibility of having something to eat. I could not help but note the irony of failing to appreciate the mouth watering, well-balanced meals previously experienced, when now a bowl of plain rice would have been enough.

Thoughts ran through my mind of how a multitude of dinner times in England had been ruined, as a consequence of trivial events. The image of my Dad pursing his lips and the sound of his heavy sighs ran through my mind. I felt, once again, the lingering tension that filled the room, as a family member strolled in late to the table or continued answering the dreaded, inappropriate rings from a mobile phone.

Eventually we reached the hut we would be staying in, which was owned by a Thai family and situated right next to their family home: both lodgings were wooden huts on stilts, barely the size of a horses stable, ours being slightly larger thankfully, as it had to occupy nine of us.

Later that evening I went to find some of the boys who had disappeared into the hut of the family. Entering I saw the father of the family. He was clearly in charge of preparing our meal and as I curiously examined him I noticed his eyes appeared very much unfocused and it it was clear he was intoxicated. I suspected that what he was smoking in his right hand, as he half heartedly prodded the contents of a pot with a long wooden spoon was not tobacco. My eyes burnt with the essence of chillies that perfumed the stifling hut.

Instant comparisons entered my head between the culinary preparations embarked upon by this man and those made by my Dad. On a typical Sunday, Dad would spend his day alternating between watching sport on the television and preparing our meal for that evening. Everyone knew that the kitchen was his terrain and we must not touch, taste or interfere with anything that was clearly left out for dinner.

This homely routine that I had become accustomed to could not have been any more different to what I was now witnessing in this hut. There were about six of us surrounding him, laughing, joking, taking it in turns to stir, whilst to my surprise the radio played a muffled 'Sweet Home Alabama' and Ollie simultaneously serenaded us with the guitar he bought from a market at the Burmese border.

I could not help but think how busy, yet how calm this scenario was. Everyone was so laid back- some a bit more than others depending on their intoxification levels- and as Noi sang the same line 'Sweet Home Alabama' repeatedly throughout the entire song, failing to have learnt the rest of the lines, I smiled with contentment. Despite the fact this family had cooked for their village and now had nine hungry foreigners to feed, the atmosphere was relaxed and we could not have felt more welcome, as we prepared to satisfy our hunger. This moment was only spoiled by the recollection of home, as I could not help thinking how stressed my Dad got when preparing food just for the four of us.

If I could have frozen time during this moment in the hut, the scene captured would have reflected a true picture of euphoria, telling a story of social bonding and depicting true appreciation. We were strangers who would not usually talk about private issues, however, in this setting we were able to bond and open up to each other about homesickness and such like, with ease. We were involved in the cooking procedure and thus were actively absorbed into the Thai culture. Witnessing the methods of their cuisine increased our gratitude.

I longed for my Dad to witness this sight and felt sad that he had been pushing us away, unknowing that this was going to limit our appreciation of food and thus have a nock on effect at the table.

The food I received that night exceeded my expectation beyond belief and not simply because of hunger. The uppermost levels of admiration for these benevolent people seized my thoughts, as regardless of the laid back approach the food was astonishing, cementing how dining should by no means be stressful.

Darkness was now fully upon us. The balcony outside our hut was lit with candles and the rains of the monsoon season began to fall heavily around us.

A curry and a large pot of soup was bought out. We laughed, as the intoxicated man mimed and acted out several movements indicating that this dish came with a hot chilli warning. This i found ironic considering the family and Noi were not going to eat with us, as they had their own hotter dishes to be eaten in the smaller house.

My taste buds tingled with delight as I took mouthful after mouthful of different flavours, enjoying the constant burn of chilli an ingredient which undoubtedly played the leading role, while the ginger and lemon grass took their turns to perform.

During our meal I was overcome by contrasting emotions. On one hand entire happiness came over me, as I was now eating food that could have been served in a gourmet restaurant, tasting great after a long wait. However, on the other hand I could not understand why we had been given so much when the families here had nothing. The irony seemed immense.

My thoughts twisted and turned, as I tried to make sense of everything, Did this food taste so good because i was out of my familiar setting? There was no denying that what I was eating was incredibly delicious, however, when before had I sat in Thailand, in the middle of an unfamiliar hill tribe village, outside a hut which just about protected us from the downfall of the rainy season, in candle light, feeling hunger like never before?

Once some rational thoughts began to form I concluded that my relaxation and gratitude for everything I saw and tasted was the result of being redistributed away from the mortal ignominy of the family dinner. It was now clearer than ever how important it had been for me to break away from the routine of family life, in order to learn different ways of interaction and find out my own vices, increasing my ability of appreciating what i have. It was a lesson of gratitude I will never forget.

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About The Author, Patrick Omari
Patrick is an expert Research and Travel consultant. His current interest is in Luton Airport Parking, Luton Airport Hotels and he has a travel blog site.(http://www.holidayextras.co.uk/luton-airport-parking.html)