In Nongyow’s home village, Moo Baan Farm, like any other Thai village, there’s no such thing as privacy. People walk in and out of each others’ houses from dawn to dusk. (And, if they’re still there after sunset, will very possibly sleep there, too.)
Consequently, you never eat on your own. In the village, people rarely say “hello”; they greet each other with “kin khow reu yang?” (“Have you eaten yet?”). If the answer is negative, you sit down and join the host.
So when I rashly promised to cook traditional English Christmas dinner for the family, I knew that I was probably cooking for an unknown number. Should you ever find yourself in a similar situation (and you never know …) here’s an illustrated guide on how to make roast pork, stuffing, potatoes, boiled vegetables, and Christmas pudding for an indeterminate amount of people on a two-ring gas burner.
What you need:
- Freshly-slaughtered pork (no photos of the kill, not cause I think you’re too squeamish, but because I was. Suffice to say it’s far more bloody and noisy than I’d imagined.)
- Three kilos of potatos, broccoli, carrots from the market
- Stuffing, gravy granules, three large Xmas puddings (all from Sainsbury’s and carried over)
- vast hordes
First, take your pork. Cover it in pounded garlic, shallots, and half a bottle of Sang Som, the Thai rum. Marinade overnight.
Now, here’s the clever bit. Crack open a few beers and supervise others doing the rest of the cooking.
Enlist help wrapping three kilos of potatos in foil, and making up three packets of stuffing. Make large dishes out of foil to hold stuffing.
Get two strapping lads to make a fire and a makeshift grille. Place foil-wrapped potatoes in the fire, and roast the pork and foil-wrapped stuffing.
Set up a bar and bartender.
On the gas burner, boil the vegetabes on one ring while steaming the Xmas puddings on the other. Once veg is boiled, use that gas ring – and the water – to make the special secret-recipe sauce.
We counted a maximum of twenty-eight people (the count reached its zenith during desert, largely due to the remaining half bottle of rum making quite a conflagration of the puddings once set alight).
After the feast on Xmas eve, I wanted a nice relaxing Christmas day. It began by out taking a pick-up truck full of friends and family to a Karen village, where we went elephant-riding.
Then, I had a Thai massage. In the West, Thai massage has a sleazy reputation as being a euphemism for prostitution, but the traditional style is anything but sexy, being a manipulation of all the limbs and main muscle groups. Thais believe that blind people do the best massage as they rely on touch alone, and I had a massage each day from the local blind guy. As he spends most of his time massaging the bodies of farmers, you can imagine that he’s a pretty vigorous masseur. It reminds me of how I feel after karate training, both relaxed and energised.
Then, in the evening, there was a display in the town centre by a Chinese Acrobatic Circus.
(If you’re interested, there’s more photos of Moo Baan Farm village, but at 500 pictures, it’s probably more than someone from outside the family could stand.)
Other holiday highlights
Where to start? The food (photos to make Jeremy Keith cry with envy); the beach; seeing old friends like my old neighbour, Steve Van Beek and his wife Piyawee before they went off to lead one of their amazing tours; hanging with Johnny (and the view from his 30th floor apartment – check out all the photos); meeting Sha-la-la, Masako and Tong‘s baby; meeting Petchuda again, ten years after she recruited me to Amnuay Silpa school, and being remembered by my old student, Annita; taking my old colleague Nit and her son Boat out …
Thanks to all of you for making it such a splendid three weeks.