Last week when we went gallivanting through the province to find Naga fireballs and instead found a drunken Thai who professed his love for Emma and I all night, Bright taught us to just say “kaa” when we had no idea what this man was saying. It’s kind of a mix of ‘yes’ and ‘I’m following what you are saying’ (and also a total lie). Tonight I taught Bright to say, “Just eat it” when I ask a billion and one questions about the food.
Today was Yuee’s birthday, Bright’s best friend, and he invited me to join in the birthday dinner celebrations. We dined along the Mekong River on some good ol’ Korean style bbq, and after asking Bright the names of some of the foods in English while loading up our plates he sighed in exasperation after being unable to think of a word and said, “Just eat it…” (which I found quite funny!)
Curiosity, I have learned, is a rather dangerous virtue to possess when dealing with Asian cuisine. One of my favorite questions during many a meal is, “What is it?” I have ingested things I never thought I would willingly out in my mouth, things ranging from the eye wateringly spicy chili sauce to frog liver and chicken feet, all because I just haaad to ask what it was. (Well. the chicken foot was pretty obvious but I expressed some mild surprise and interest in it which is apparently code for “make her eat it”.)
My first endeavor tonight in discovering mystery meat in the pot went well. I asked about a square looking fried thing and found out it was some sort of fish, and seconds later one of those said squares was dropped onto my plate. It looked like tofu and tasted like fish…harmless enough. About 20 minutes later I spied another mystery morsel on one of the other plates. “What is that?” I ask, pointing to it.
Yuee thinks for a moment, and then, “Octopus! Do you want to try it?”
“Oh! ..uuhhhh….” I rack my brains for a way to say thanks but no thanks I don’t want a rubbery octopus tentacle, but when a Thai offers you food you don’t really turn them down.
“I want you to try it!”
“Well ok then.”
A few minutes later it was ready and I chewed my way though the octopus. It actually wasn’t all that bad!
I should have stopped while I was ahead. I should have just let that white, corkscrew shaped meat simmer quietly in the pot and left it well enough alone. My brain had made the connection between asking and receiving but my mouth wasn’t quite on track and those three little words, “what. is. that?” came barreling out from between my lips before I could silence them .
I already knew I didn’t want to hear the answer, because inevitably I would be asked to try it and I would rather remain in gracious naivety than know what it was I was eating. The kids tried to think of the word, “Muu….muu…..(pork…pork…)” while putting their hand on their stomachs. Oh no. Art looked it up on his phone and they showed it to me: “Entrails”, big, black, and bold, leapt out at me from the glaring white screen. Great. Nobody made a move for them though, and I hoped that it was my lucky night and I was spared from trying them. Unfortunately I think it was the fact they weren’t fully cooked yet, not good fortune, that spared me the taste test, because a couple of minutes later I turned from my conversation only to come face to face with Miss Piggy’s intestines dangling from the end of a chopstick.
You did this to yourself. I reluctantly held up my plate to receive this “gift”. You and your big mouth.
*Those pig entrails were awful. They were chewy. So chewy. I had to focus really hard on other things in an attempt to not think about what I was was currently rolling around my mouth and trying to force down my throat. I know I am probably cursing myself here but I don’t ever want to eat entrails again.*