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There are manythings that might get listed as the Thai national pastime. It could be chit-chat พูดคุย. It could be music. But to me, the quintessential Thai Pastime is eating. It is an activity central to everything. Eating in Thailand is an art form. How to eat? What to eat? Where to eat? Why eat? With whom? When to eat? The topic was brought to mind by a Facebook friend whom I have never had an eyeball with, never met face to face. She is quarantining in Bangkok, on day three of fourteen. She has been posting pictures of her food. They deliver it to her room. I have been looking at it and it has been making me sad. It seems inhuman. The first question that comes to mind”How can you serve that kind of food to a Thai person?” Then when you realize that they are doing so in Bangkok, City of Angles, the impregnable city of God Indra, city of the 9 gemsฯลฯ. How can it be true that you serve cold breaded cutlets of some sort with gloopy sauce from a bottle? The pictures she has been posting on Facebook have been provoking a Thai response from her family, homemade food delivered. Half way around the world I am relieved. How could this happen? I teach at a university. We often have Thai students. I want to meet them. I cannot tell a Thai person from someone from Cambodia or Vietnam. But I want to meet Thais. In general they are happy to meet me. I have friends of over ten years now that I met on campus. We have helped each other. The first Thai I met was while I was in school. For various reasons, I have no way to meet them. Sometimes I don’t know that there is a Thai student until I see their name during graduation. But about five years ago it dawned on me. I can tell Thai people or at least often can by how they eat. It is rare to see a Thai person in our cafeteria eating alone. You eat with a pyan เพื่อน , a companion. You share food. This might be dipping sauces, it might be the main dishes, it might be fruit. Food is generally eaten by pushing it onto a spoon with the back side of a fork. That is, unless its Chinese food, in which case its eaten with chopsticks. Exactly what food is on the spoon, each spoonful, is likely arranged. A small amount of sauce might have been gathered first, there might be a piece of a vegetable, there will likely be rice unless its a noodle dish. Spoonfuls are not too big. As this happens you see hands moving around the table, like a dance. It can be quite graceful. Things are shared. Foods have very specific sauces, often have vegetables that accompany them and side dishes. One of my favorite dishes, in some ways a simple, plain dish, is Kao Man Gai. Kao Man Gai is served with some cucumber slices. The rice is cooked in oil and broth of the chicken. The chicken is served on top of the rice. There is some cooked chicken blood on the side and a sauce that is very flavorful but usually not too spicey. This sauce is specific to Kao Man Gai. Cucumbers are a frequent side in street cuisine. I think that this is because they keep well all day. The soup that is served on the side is usually very mild thin broth. It reminds me of my mothers’s matzoh ball soup. The broth for Kao Man Gai has very little yichus. Yichus are the solids in soups, like vegetables or lentils. But Kao Man Gai broth does have Chinese winter melon or in the US sometimes cooked daikon radish or something mild like that. There are often fresh vegetables at the Thai table. These can be quite exotic tasting, bitter, sulphury, astringent -like or just crunchy long beans and cabbage. The taste “bitter” is important in Thailand. Bitter foods are often seen as good for the health, maybe like cod-liver oil in the West. I would not know. I have never had cod-liver oil. I have had many of the bitter vegetables in Thailand. They are “interesting” to eat. It would take something to get Gail to eat any more of these. And she is an adventurous eater. Some times of the day ask for certain foods. Where I lived, at Chez Umdang, late afternoon was time for Som Tum, Green Papaya Salad, the favored dish of Isaan, the Northeast region of Thailand. Who made the Som Tum varied. Usually it was one of the wonderful young women helping around the house, Gaw Wow named for the song of a bird, or Fon whose name means rain. These women were helpful and gratious in a way that cannot be overstated. They made awful days bearable, and had thier hands in making our good times in Dankwian magical. Green papaya salad is an exercise in balance of flavor, spicey, sour, fishy, garlic, and some textural variety. It is hard to get right, but Som Tum varies a lot, and there seemed to be people whose Som Tum was prized. But usually Som Tum was made by Gaw Wow or Fon. Green papaya is full of enzymes, and papaya juice is used as medicine in parts of the world and my thoughts about it are that its daily consumption might be a way to keep intestinal parasites under control. They are a problem in the Northeast, and Som Tum is endemic. Some som tum each day keeps the doctor away. If you are leaving me food to eat when I am buried or a ghost, skip the alcohol and leave me som tum. I will be grateful. I got picked up at the train station. It had been a long day and there was no food on the train. I was hot, tired, thirsty, and there were 4 adults and two children in the car. There was no air conditioning but fortunately it was in the cool part of the day, ตอนเย็น, interestingly named “cool time”. I was asked what I wanted to eat, I said “Duck Soup”. Its one of my favorite forms of street food. This question being asked of me was in some ways an honor, a choice like this having some real importance. I don’t think I would have picked up on this on my first trip. Duck soup. “Oh duck soup is very good” . “Jum, who makes the best duck soup?” . “Certainly its the vendor on the Dankwian Road”. “I like the stand in the old market”. “There is a new place by the Seven (11) by the mall, Its pretty good”.” Well the Vendor on the Dankwian Road does not open until 10pm. But its really good. Maybe we should see if he opened early”. “No its too far to turn back, lets try the place by Ghost Gate Market”. We turn and drive towards there. “Jum, do you really want to eat that soup? The flavor is weak” “Maybe there is some by the night market, Some vendors open early”. We drove around for two hours looking but not finding. My “lets eat something else” was not apparently acceptable.

Kinako Cerve Katz – きなこCerveכץ

This recipe is for an amalgam hot beverage recipe.
Fresh roast some soybeans as you would coffee. I use a heat gun in an uncoated tin can stirring with a very long implement.
I roast the bean meat to a traditional US light roasted color. I ignore the color of the skins.
Allow them to cool and grind them very fine in a coffee grinder. I do not use a bur mill, but one of those cheapo high speed mills I add one cardomom pod to about a 1/4 cup of the beans.

Using a #5 Cerve pot (AKA Turkish/Greek/Arabic/Israeli coffee pot) heat some water with 2 teaspoons of sugar.
When near boiling add 1.5 Tablespoons of fine ground kinako.
Bring to a boil and allow to froth up.
Let it sit 20 seconds and froth it up again.
You can do this a third time.
The Kinako settles more quickly than coffee so wait ten seconds and pour. Reserve some foam for each cup.
Top this off with coconut milk. I do not know if it is good with cream but most things are. It would be fine with me if you used butter.
The recipe is also good with a bit of cocoa added.

Liz R

The summer Suwanee turned up at The Bray was a wild summer. Our friend Owen came and helped me build my kiln on the scrap brick pile. Mary Rutger, who we all lost too soon, was there with her friend Liz R. Liz is important here because she suggested that I apply for a Fulbright Grant from the US government.

So I called the Fulbright Office. Some of you reading will not have experienced this, but there was no internet available. No email or online phone books. I dialed the telephone information number for Washington DC and asked for the number of The Fulbright Foundation. Just in case it comes up to get information you would dial 1, then the area code, and then 555-1212.

They were located on Dupont Circle. The program is administered by The Council for the Internation Exchange of Scholars (CIES) I asked for information and was connected with the head of the Southeast Asian Section.

He asked me a series of questions.
1. Do you have a doctorate?
2. Are you teaching at a college or university?
3. Have you written any books?

Since all of these questions were answered “no” he said that I should not bother applying.
Liz told me to call back and just get an application. The application arrived August 5th 1987 and was due August 15. Suwanee had already returned to Thailand.

Other than that sheet of slides that my Thai friend in Normal Illinois had shown me, I knew nothing of Thai pottery. It did not seem enough for a long proposal. I looked through all the books in the Bray Library, the local public library and the state library in Helena Montana. I decided to drive to Bozeman Montana to the University library. I found a book with one paragraph about Thai Pottery. It was about glazed porcelain and I was more interested in stoneware. I also turned up an article on Thailand in National Geographic from 1934. One of the pictures contained some utilitarian pots.

At this point in my life a four page paper could be torturous. It is not that I could not put ideas together, or did not know grammar, it was that I was dysgraphic. When I learned what the diagnosis meant I knew that it applied to me.
You can read about my experiences with dysgraphia here:
Anyhow, I got to writing a grant. I did the obvious and asked “What do they want to fund that I want to do?” and described that intersection. Gail helped me proof this. I could not have gotten the grant without her help. She writes and proofreads well. I have some significant deficiencies.
People occasionally told me, “You were so lucky to get that grant”. Sometimes this attitude is irritating. I worked my but off for that grant. I went to graduate school for that grant. I was friendly to people to get that grant. I wrote down people’s phone numbers to get that grant. I stayed up late ten days in a row in order to write that grant, and I had a conversation with Suwanee’s mother in Thai when I could not speak it for that grant. It was not luck, but hard work, planning and being nice. It never hurts you to be nice.
Here is how.

Nui, Professor Poonarat, who I have already wrote about taught me how to count and ask where the bathroom is located and a few other words. I had Suwanee record about 10 minutes of Thai Phrases from a book. I had the book checked out from the library. I knew that if I called Suwanee’s phone number that she did not live there, her parents did. No one in the village of Dankwian had a phone. There was a village phone office with one number. So I made a chart. It had greating on it in transliterated Thai. Then it had a statement, ” I do not speak Thai” . I want to speak with Suwanee NAtewong. Then it had a list of possible answers with keywords underlined. Then there was a long list of questions or statements, “Could you say it again?” ” What time”?. “Where?”, What number?
How many hours? What day? etc.
It then had a list of keywords regarding time, date, place, telephones etc.
I called. The phone call cost about $2.00 a minute.


(maybe call this misparsing?)
Microparsing: The deliberate or subconscious parsing of the least significant parts of word definitions or elevating the importance of unintended connotations to obscure or misinterpret the intent of the writer or speaker.


The µBITx, pronounced Micro -Bit -X  is an amatuer radio transceiver.  It works from 3 – 30 Megahertz.  It is a kit, sort of, and is very inexpensive.  Mine was $109 with a $10 dollar extra charge for REALLY fast shipping from India. It was accepted for shipment 65 hours before delivery in South Texas.

There are many cool things about this radio. 3- 30 Megahertz is a very big swath of radio frequency. It sends and receives morse code and single side band voice. AM radio waves are made by combining a radio frequency signal, a plain sin wave at a fixed frequency with an audio wave. What comes out of the radio is the fixed frequency wave called the carrier and two side bands that are the carrier plus and minus the frequency of the audio. The carrier , although it is called a carrier carries no information other than what the fixed frequency is. The two side bands duplicate the audio information. What single side band does is eliminate the carrier and one of the side bands early in the process and amplifies the remaining sideband. Having to only amplify one part of the signal allows it, using the same amount of power, to be stronger. All of the juice goes into the one side band making it louder, stronger.  It also creates a much less wide signal allowing more conversations to go on at the same time. Please do not consider me an expert on any of this. My knowlege is really limited and people with more abound.

So, how does this radio work?  Old radios produced the carrier with a combination of components. The easiest way  to make an oscillator is with a coil and a capacitor. The coil holds a charge in magnetic field, and a capacitor holds one in an electric field. These two devices when set up properly send energy back and forth between each other at a certain frequency determined by how they are constucted, how “big” they are. The problem with these simple oscillators is that they change frequency with temperature, and the heat up with use.
Skipping all of the other intermediate steps in oscillator development, at least in part because I really know little about all of this brings us to the µBITx.

The µBITx creates its base frequency with chip that has a circuit designed to create the frequency of your choice. You program in what you want and the frequency comes out. The chip accepts commands using a language called I2C. THis language goes over a pair of wires.  The computer that sends this is a small computer I am a bit familiar with called an Arduino.

ส้มตำมะละกอSom Tum Malakoh

  • 3-4 cups completely unripe green papaya Julienned fineมะละกอดิบสับขิ้นฝอยๆ Can be made with carrot (see below)
  • 1/2 cup  dried shrimp (coarse)ก้งแห้งป่น pounded
  • 8-10 cloves garlicกลีบกระเทียม
  • 4-5 small chillies pequinsพริกขี้หนูสด You can use poblano or other strong flavor peppers. Sweet peppers do not work. They do not need to be spicy.
  • 4-5 black peppercorns or green if availableผริกไทย These could be left out if your stomach is sensitive.
  • 1-2 dried chilliพริกแห้ง
  • 2T Fish sauce, jaggery lime juice and tamarind pod water if available.น้ำตาลปีบ น้ำปลา น้ำมะขามเปียก Fish paste is the premiere ingredient for this but it is aroma-non-grata in my house.
  • 1t Shrimp pasteกะปิ
  • 2T fresh roasted peanutsถั่วลิสงเผา
  • 2-6 cherry tomatosมะเขือเทศเล็กเล็ก

This recipe is about balance. If something is too powerful add something else.
Julienne the peeled papaya with a sharp knife and a coarse vegetable peeler. Julienned , spiralized or even coursely grated carrot can be substituted. Carrot either should be pounded very lightly or not pounded at all.
In a Danwkean Mortar pound the peppers garlic, shrimp paste  adding the peanuts last and pound the peanuts  lightly. You can also use mortars from Ubon and Nongkhai. But Dankwian Mortars are the best.
Add papaya and pound each small batch until partially translucent.

Serve with grilled chicken and sticky rice.


More here :


Often my memories seem tied to ideas. I remember the ideas and  then the facts flex to fit the thesis or concept. So I remember Victor Babu with his feet together slightly on his tiptoes hands open and arms outstretched above his head saying, “blossoming” in reference to a pot form. My memory is that despite his huge shoulders and small hips this dance, this pose had a grace, perhaps equivalent to the suggested grace in the  to the phrase of  Cardew, “The Majesty of Form”.
He, Victor, a fantastic human, was describing a condition of a pot, a kind of breath. This word, breath, is not one I hear defined directly in “A potter’s Workbook” but Clary Illian talks the concept. She talks about the interaction between the surface or wall of a pot and the column or volume of air on the inside. I describe a relation between the skin, the absolute-skin-surface of a pot and the volume – the air inside is surely a better description for some. Breath, as a word, is tied to Buddhist ideals but these ideals or ideas, are not really that removed from the fullness, balance, and active stillness (active or anticipatory stasis) suggested by the breath in pots. Back then while I was in school either we did not use this word “breath” or my ears had a special filter to keep it out.
Patty Driscol, Gail Busch and I were sitting around one  evening (Kathy Ervin) could have been over, looking through the dictionary for some reason and thinking of this dance of Victor, his word, “blossoming”, or at least the idea of it and I came across the word erumpant.  Erumpant is ready to burst, ready to pop. A pregnant woman, a ripe fruit, and as I have a certain taste for the tasteless, a zit ready to pop. I think we had been playing scrabble.
There is really only one sort of ripeness, one fullness, described by “erumpent” but I think it is one sort with stages. It is a useful word but rather one dimensional. We really have many different varieties of fullness in the field of ceramics. Having thought about it for years I now have more categories, a bud, a blossom opening, opened, even wilting, there is growth like a shoot of bamboo, thickening of the trunk like a tree or a kapok tree, the beer belly, as well as the various perceptions of erumpancy. There is  beginning to bulge, quickly beginning, a hint of readiness or ripeness, ready to burst, actually bursting , burst and a sort of flacid loss of muscle or skin tone. Each have their place, and grace, and all can have breath if done well. Some are harder to pull off than others.
The words themselves have little meaning when it comes to pots until we categorize ideas, visual ideas and assign them to the words. Some words collect these ideas better than others. These words contain action, emotion, and layers of expectations. If they do not have these layers of meaning then using them adds nothing to the already obvious characteristics of the pot as in,”that is a smooth pot”. So it is not really the use of words, but what we put into them. ya ya  ya.

Recently I went to a ceramics conference in Kansas City. I got to see Victor for a few short minutes. I don’t think that I can  trydescribe talking with Victor in any way that truly captures it. There were scores of people waiting to talk ad I had only a few minutes. It was delightful.

Shape, a separate essay but attached to the original version will appear in a different post.

แกงป่า Jungle Curry

Working on  Jungle Curry แกงป่า

  • deleted recipe nestle food who I refuse to have anything to do with.

Tom Yum Kung ต้มยำกุ้ง

This is the Thai national dish. When you say something is Tom Yum Kung, you are saying that it is authentically Thai.  Its like saying that something is “as American as apple pie”. The Asian Monetary Crisis of 1997 which seemed to start in Thailand is often referred to as “Tom Yum Kung”.

This is the start of a post on a recipe for Tom Yum Kung. My sources are memory, Jennifer Brennan’s (Hot Pink) Original Thai Cookbook and Hot Thai Kitchens youtube video and Thai Food Master
My memories are scattered but as always include Umdang Ceramics and a certain little whole in the wall place in Korat that kept upping the peppers every time we went there.

This page says to add 4 shallots This page also says to fry prawn brains in oil until golden. They add them late in the process to the soup and it adds an orange color. I will probably get headless shrimp so no prawn brains.
I have had shallots in Tom Yum but have never included them in my recipe. I am gonna try some this time.
I really like the oil that has had shrimp shells fried in it so  I am going to use that part of the Hot Pink cook book.

2T vege oil I like the way it looks if it goes red.
8 cups quality chicken stock using skin and feet if possible
1.5t salt
1″ of galangal fresh from my garden sliced in rounds.
3 stalks lemon grass 1″ length. from my garden, bruise before cutting.
Kaffir Lime leaf 4 slivered from my garden
1/4 t kaffir zest but other limes OK from my garden, maybe fresh
2 green chili, serrano, or one polano slivered (bruise first). I will  throw in a few pequins.
4 shallots
2 pounds shrimp peel de-vein and reserve the shells.
1 slivered red chili slivered (bruise first)
2 limes juiced.
1T Fish Sauce. Louis uses a tad of shrimp paste.
2 T coriander leaves chopped coarse
3 green onions chopped coarse from my garden
mushrooms, I am going shitake this time I think.
a small amount of vegetable matter but this soup traditionally has little to none. I am not sure what, but maybe a few bits of slivered root veges. Hot Thai Kitchen says maybe to add some Nam Prik Phao it adds some nice color. I may put in some powdered dry  ancho chili early with the shrimp shells.

Fry shells in oil , add stock, galangal, leaf and rind of kaffir.  green chilli shallots. simmer the stock.
Bring to a boil add veges, mushrooms first, then shrimp. Slightly undercook the shrimp. Remove from heat add lime juice fish sauce sugar coriander and green onion. Check for salt, sugar, pepper, fish sauce.  serve. Guests that are late get it cold. Do not bring this back to a boil.