Thai cuisine is bombtastic. From spicy meats over rice to smoky BBQ skewers, from grilled fish to hearty stews and amply heated papaya salads, you can never go wrong at a street vendor who takes pride in serving the community with a variety of fresh dishes, and makes a decent living doing it.
Of course, not everything that comes from a Thai street vendor is that fresh. Before I even arrived in Asia, I told myself that I wouldn’t be eating anything that wasn’t prepared in front of me; definitely wouldn’t be eating anything that was just sitting in a bowl on the ledge of a food stall in 40 degree C heat (over 100 degrees F). But then we arrived in Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand, known for regional cuisine that’s noticeably different from what you might get in Bangkok. A cooler climate, especially in the mountainous areas, saw to agricultural harvests that included broccoli, cauliflower, and a variety of other veggies that we rarely, if ever, saw in the south.
There was this one dish, a pork-leg stew that we saw at one vendor amongst dozens on this very lively, very active strip within the old walled-in town of the city where we were staying. I’m not sure when the stew was prepared, possibly before we arrived in Thailand, who knows. I broke my own rule and ordered the stew, which was actual quite delicious. It wasn’t long, though, before something inside of me wasn’t feeling quite right; that is, nothing inside of me was feeling quite right.
I remember lying in bed at night, unsure of how to make myself comfortable as my body shivered uncontrollably while being soaked in sweat from a combination of the fever I was suffering from and the humid evening heat. Teresa, that angel, did everything she could to make it better and just having her there at my side holding me tight made all the difference in the world.
Yeah, I broke my own rule and got sick as a result, but I don’t regret it. Because after four or five days of unpleasantness (in addition to the shivers and the sweats, there was another painfully unpleasant “s” word that I won’t go into detail about) I felt a whole lot better and I could eat pretty much whatever I wanted without worrying about bacteria my body wasn’t used to.
Don’t get me wrong: this isn’t a suggestion to go out and eat whatever mouldy, fly-ridden substance you see rotting away in the sun. Common sense still applies. Plus, I was lucky: a few days of sickness is no big deal when you’ve got months ahead of you to enjoy the trip…a week or two away is a different story. You definitely don’t want to be sick for a good chunk of that time. But also keep in mind that our bodies often react to food based on what we’ve been consuming throughout our lives and there’s always room for growth in that regard. We are adaptable beings if we allow ourselves to be, especially when we’re still young. Once we do adapt to certain changes, it opens up a new world of enjoyment for us. It’s also a great way to grow closer to people who live (seemingly) worlds away. They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. I think it’s true for all of us because this gorgeous lady’s heart certainly melted quite easily once she got her first true taste of Thailand: