Archive for January, 2010
In the states I felt pretty good about my foodie abilities. I strutted my stuff with homemade bagels and hand folded raviolis. I confidently managed a glass of wine and a good conversation while sautéing. And I made probably the meanest mac and cheese around.
Here, I suck.
I make a lot of mistakes. I scrape too hard when I descale. I forget to sharpen my machete between chickens. And I don’t rotate my coals soon enough, turning my roasted eggplant to ash.
I have to unlearn everything I’ve known about cooking before. Lids are never to be used. MSG is best for flavoring. Iceberg lettuce goes in soup. And absolutely nothing is wasted. Fish fins and lime rinds? Throw ‘em in the pot.
And shoes should never be worn. Rubber flip-flips only.
(When you’re squatting on the pavement scrubbing veggies with water from a hose, and your friend is shredding raw fish with a butcher knife, sending bits of flesh flying, the last thing you want are shoes you can’t rinse.)
Yesterday I made a traditional meal, laap, with Noy and Kaman. Laap is basically meat salad; the meat (usually raw) is finely ground and mashed with toasted rice, mint, cilantro and pepper. A paste like substance, you eat it with balls of sticky rice and your hands.
Despite a major pepper-washing-eye-touching mistake during yesterday’s preparations, lunch turned out pretty damn good, thanks mostly to Noy and Kaman.
I’ve got a long ways to go before I take on a meal alone. And I think its safe to say I can forget about that glass of wine.
So, for today’s lunch?
Cornflakes, milk, sugar.
(sorry for the absence. bad case of strep here. day three of antibiotics, though, and things are looking up. stay tuned, i will be back!) xo, leslie.
At dusk, the bugs come out. Maybe you thought they were out before. You were wrong.
In the headlight of the motorbike each bug glows an urgent, vibrant yellow. Then whap, hits you in the face.
You try not to laugh even though it all seems pretty absurd to you. Here, in these mountains, tuk-tuks of locals and water buffalo speeding past, machete wielding tots walking home, and you, an out-of-place falang on a motorbike up north.
It’s a common road for travelers in their VIP minibuses. But like this, you stick out.
You keep trying not to laugh. Your partner, whose driving face first into this insect assault, won’t be pleased. You begged him to come up here, to Nong Khiew for a spontaneous night in the mountains, on the river, in a hammock.
And now it’s getting dark. The insects are pelting and you’re afraid to say that you’re not too sure where you are. You could have sworn it was closer than this.
He sighs and shakes his helmet back and forth, probably at your less than thought out plan of a evening roadtrip.
But then, down another hill and around a corner into the valley, from the front of the bike comes, ‘Damn I feel hard-core.’
A sign for Mong Ngoi district; almost there.
And a couple of nice teenage boys who laugh sweetly at your Lao and say, yes, Nong Khiew is just up there. You pull onto a dirt road, swerving and bumping the whole way down.
Over the bridge and across the Nam Ou river, flowing fiercely even as the dry season sets in.
A room with two pushed together twin mats, bamboo walls. A clean squatter.
And a cold beer Lao.
Dham thak. Cheers to roadtrippin with my favorite ally.
Kao says he would buy color crayons.
Tuoc, a book.
With all the money in the world, Ket would buy everything he needs to go to school.
Boa, a place to learn.
Si Sumat wants a pen.
These kids of Pha Theung village want, more than anything, to be educated.
An education, a basic human right, should be accessible to us all, regardless of borders and status.
To the most under-served children in the world, a pencil, a teacher, a classroom, brings the promise of a future with choice.
A future with opportunity.
To know more about empowering education, check out some things PoP. And welcome to the movement.