Thai Thanksgiving Feast

Happy Thanksgiving to you all back home in the U.S.!

It’s a day ahead here in Thailand, so my Thanksgiving was celebrated one day before the U.S.

I went to visit my two Thai massage friends at their shop and took some Pad Thai, Penang Curry, and rice from my favorite vegetarian Restaurant here in Chiang Mai, May Kaidee’s.

They had raw cucumbers, blanched cabbage and oyster mushrooms, sticky rice, nam phrik, (hot chile paste, made by pounding chiles, garlic, salt and sugar and frying it for a short while), and egg omelette.

My kind of Thanksgiving spread--vegetarian, mostly organic, and international


We shared food. The nam phrik on the omelette was really spicy, and they laughed at me as I coughed.

They hadn’t really heard of Thanksgiving. I tried to explain it’s a holiday when people eat turkey and just eat too much.

But I had decided to come to Chiang Mai instead and visit the Elephant Nature Park, to remind me to be thankful, which is in line with the true spirit of the holiday.

(I’ll post the sad and happy details of my visit to the elephant park in a separate post.)

I tried to say, “You are my Thai massage family.” That resulted in a lot of confusion and laughter, and they eventually understood me.

My friend June has a northern accent, so her pronunciation is a little different than so-called standard Thai at times. But her animated personality and boundless energy make for a lively time, whether we are discussing politics, massage techniques, animal cruelty and the complete lack of regulation and protection for animals here, or how to eat sticky rice.

She insisted I eat it the traditional way, balling it in my hand, then dipping it into the curry or nam phrik. When she was a child, she used to roll the rice between two palms to create a dense ball that was then too chewy and hard to eat easily.

Kids will be kids the world over.

It took two of them, plus pantomime, to explain how they used to squeeze the essential oils out of a piece of orange peel onto a ruler. Then they touched the ruler to the palm of their hand and pulled it away repeatedly. Eventually the oils created spider-web-like strands. The mandarin oranges we had for dessert (along with apple bananas) didn’t have enough essential oil in the peel to make it happen, so I had to take their word for it.

I laughed so much, I was getting a headache from my cheek muscles contracting. That, plus a sore face from smiling, crying, and trying not to sob at the elephant park, were not helping.

They gave me a kaffir lime (ma kroot) to sniff the peel, which is supposed to help with headaches.

Kaffir Limes, Ma Kroot in Thai


It did, until my friend said she wanted some of my extra weight, because she is too skinny and runs out of energy. I told her to take all she wants, and that the reason she is so skinny is because all her movements are vibrant, full of energy, and overexcited.

I imitated her, and we both laughed until our stomachs hurt. She told me she never guessed I’d be a mirror to her behavior.

Then I had a headache again.

They fed the stray dogs outside, named Ding Dong, Long, and Kencham, then put out a hot water bottle so Ding Dong can sleep on it.

Ding Dong, an old street dog with mange and aching joints


He is old and gets stiff after sleeping when it’s cold like this. When he gets up, he shrieks in pain for a few minutes, until his joints warm up and stop hurting.

Sometimes they massage him, to relieve the pain.

“Khon jai dee,” I tell them often. Good, kind people.

Long sleeps hidden in the plants fronting the shop, two feet away from the mopeds, cars, and traffic.

My Thanksgiving dinner was an international celebration, and I was happy to spend it with my Thai “massage family” of therapists here in Chiang Mai.

And although my time at the Elephant Nature Park earlier in the day was emotional, it reminded me of many things I am grateful for.

This Thanksgiving was probably the nicest one I’ve ever had. Ironically, there was no turkey, no stuffing, no overeating, no blood-related family, and I wasn’t even in the U.S.

I hope yours is as full of warmth, love, and good eats as mine was. Happy Thanksgiving, and please remember to give thanks.

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