I love to recount travel stories. They can be appalling, amusing, infuriating, and off-putting. I will stick with humor this time. A friend went to Thailand on my recommendation. I do that often and people take me up on it. He and his wife wanted a taste of the true culture and eschewed the modern urban hotels. They even eschewed the popular beach resorts fearing an onslaught of fellow tourists. They hired a guide and even a “chef” for the trip. They told him strictly native cuisine. Little did they know what that meant!
Thai cooking is very appealing overall. Most people are familiar with some version as it has become popular in the west. Restaurants are not hard to find. Pad Thai anyone? Mee krob or larb? All great flavorful stuff and getting competitive with ubiquitous Chinese takeout. Everyone likes the spices and seasonings and considers it a nice treat.
Speaking of treats, my friends did not envision the Thai version of a snack. They went on their adventure enjoying the scenery and flora and fauna of the region. They enjoyed the tales recounted by their guide and the surprise sightseeing spectacles. A few days into the trip, the chef wanted to spice things up or provide another dimension to the experience. Who knows? The fact is that he served a medley of Jing Leed (cricket), Maeng Kee Noon (looks like a beetle) and non mai (worm). The Golden Mountain sauce was carefully prepared and he offered condiments such as pepper powder to make the choices mouthwatering and tempting.
No temptation there, however. The couple balked physically and vocally. Not us, they cried. We don’t eat insects! Of course the disappointed chef asked why. He was nonplussed as he had made a special effort to please them with local cuisine. Isn’t that what they were striving for? Not this time, they said.
After a round of arguments, and seeing the forlorn face of the chef, my friend decided to indulge his curiosity. He found the tidbits crunchy and textural. Interesting, he said aloud. His wife just shook her head and looked away, hoping no one would notice her lack of appetite.
My friend wasn’t terribly impressed but he faked it. That was his big mistake. The chef decided to make it several times more during the adventure and he had to eat several at a time with glee. It was a great acting job. It was easier each time and I venture to guess that he might have liked one or two of the choices.
At the end of the trip, my friends were in the city getting ready to return home. They were walking down a small back street and noticed a few vendors. The wife suddenly stopped short and yelled, Leed! The vendor handed her a crisp one, freshly wok fried (The street version of a handy kitchen appliance).
She popped it into her mouth and chewed. A dainty swallow ensued. Nice, she said. She grasped her husband’s arm, and the two slipped away with great content.