Yeah, the whole weight loss portion of this adventure is long over. =( Mai bpen lai.
Today a couple of the other teachers and I went to the petroleum plant to evaluate students for placement in upcoming classes. The plant is the biggest customer for my school, so this was a bit of a big deal (dress nicely, be friendly, look American, etc etc.) The downside was having to get to work by 8:30am like a normal person (I haven't had a morning class in a while). But the upside was that a few former students of one of the other teachers invited us out to lunch. And lunch was at restaurant on the beach!
This particular restaurant had regular tables and picnic benches, as opposed to the lounge chairs and low tables prevalent at the beach I normally visit. So we didn't feel entirely out of place sitting there in our work clothes. It was still, um... rustic*. There was sand beneath our feet and a nice cool breeze blowing in from the ocean. The tide was out pretty far, with a few shimmers of water left on the sand, and a fishing boat resting in the shallows. There were birds hoping around on the shore picking at the sand crabs, and of course the restaurant dog wandering around nudging me in the back in hopes of a treat. People, I could not make this stuff up if I tried... it was just so perfectly what a beach-side restaurant should be.
The students had ordered by phone before we got there so as soon as we were seated, plates started appearing. First off, there was a good sized whole fish split down the middle, breaded, fried and coated in a very sweet fishy sauce - delicious! This was served with a green-papaya and lime salad (sour to counter the sweet - Thai cuisine is all about balance). Next out was a platter of shrimp, or possibly prawns (I'm not sure what the difference is). They were HUGE and cooked whole. So yes, more shrimp eyes looking at me while I was eating. This time however, we snapped off the heads and peeled the shells off before eating them. Another plate was covered in ...scallops maybe? I'm not sure what they were, flat white shells (not like clams) and a very soft meat inside, it was absolutely doused in garlicky herb butter or oil, so they were mighty tasty. Sea-snails covered yet another platter. Crab curry and seafood fried rice rounded things out a bit. Then two or three whole boiled crabs arrived in a basin with the appropriate Thai utensils - a hockey-puck shaped piece of wood on which to place a portion of the crab, and a decently sized stick to whack it open with.
What you need to respect about this meal is it's authenticity. While it's kind of a pain to crack through all those shells, there was no question of exactly what I was eating, and it's origin was no mystery. Those critters were swimming around in the ocean last night .... that ocean - right there... the one I could walk out to and dip my toes in if I were so inclined. You can't eat more local than this! Needless to say, it was all delicious.
I used to think I didn't like fish or seafood, but it turns out I just didn't like it the way my mom cooked it. Rayong is rocking my little taste buds. I even tried the sea-snails, using a toothpick to stick and twist and pull the little snail out. They were not my favorite, but as far as snails go... not bad.
With that much food, you would have expected a whole crowd of people but it was just four students and three of us teachers. Nevertheless we did the meal justice. One of the guys was the designated crab basher and after cracking & shelling the crab would hand out bits of leg or body to us, and one of the gals beheaded & peeled a good number of shrimp for us before she started chowing down herself. Our hosts defined hospitality, filling our glasses with water & Pepsi and making sure we were well stuffed. They even explained the purpose of the bowls of lime-water placed at each end of the table (to remove the fish-odor from our hands), and we had a good laugh about how one of them had been served a glass of water with a slice of lemon in it when she traveled to Australia and wasn't sure if she should try to stick her hands in it or drink it.
Stuffed, and leaving a humongous pile of shells in our wake, we waddled out and as we exited we noticed the little tanks of water in front of the restaurant. Oh - there's the fish we just ate, and there are the prawns, and the crab! They were all just hanging out in the aerated pools ignorant to the fact that they were moments from fulfilling their culinary destiny.
Now, I know and respect a lot of vegetarians, and there is a part of me that recognizes the cruelty in killing animals for food. But on the other hand, that's life. Pretty much every living thing on this planet is meant to be food for something else, and as I learned reading Down Under, more than a few of these would be delighted to chow down on a person if they had the chance. Having accepted that, I have to say I'd rather eat an animal that got to live comfortably in it's natural environment up until shortly before mealtime than one that was born and raised as food, living it's short life in unnaturally constricted conditions and finally being packaged, frozen and shipped thousands of miles before ending up on my plate. This is really something I'm going to take home with me. I don't want to be a part of the industrial food complex anymore. It's scary, immoral, and unhealthy to boot. But I'm not going to worry about that at the moment. I'm just going to enjoy the food here while I can.
Yesterday I made it out to the mall and bought camera #3. This one is a Kodak Easy Share C913, and virtually identical in design to the first digital camera I had (and loved). It's amazingly user-friendly and I already know how to use like 90% of the features, so that makes me a happy camper. And yes... I shoulda/woulda/coulda taken the camera to the beach today but I didn't know we'd be having a photo-worthy outing. You'll just have to take my word for how awesome it was.
TAG: Code Mango
* and by rustic I mean, there's no way in hell it would pass health inspection in the States