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Inviting Writing: Thai Spaghetti

A visit to Thailand unfortunately led to a meal of Italian food

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Last week we invited you to send in your stories about food and sickness: things you eat to make you feel better, foods that keep you from feeling under the weather or stuff that actually makes you physically ill. Maybe our writerly readers were feeling too sickly to type since response to this month’s prompt has been, well, flat-lining. (Though admittedly, after a long holiday weekend, it takes a wee bit longer to get the creative juices flowing again.) Just the same, this week we are pleased to have Around the Mall blogger Jamie Simon offer her memories of trying to find foods she could stomach while abroad.

For the rest of you, may ye be of sound health and mind so you can send in your essays by Friday, June 10 to FoodandThink@gmail.com. We look forward to reading them and will post our favorites on subsequent Mondays.

floating market

Bangkok’s floating market (courtesy of flickr user tommykwok630)

Thai Spaghetti
by Jamie Simon

In 2009, I spent ten days in Bangkok, traveling with my father who was attending a Peace Corps Medical Conference. I had never been to Asia and was looking forward to taking in the local culture and trying to blend in as much as my very Western (and very pale) self would allow. I ate exotic vats of simmering meats at the Floating Market, tried my first dandelions at Cabbages & Condoms and mustered the courage to try some of the street food along Sukhumvit Road. Even though I was familiar with American Thai food, the authentic stuff was an entirely new experience. I was never quite sure what I was eating, but there was always a clarity, a hominess and, of course, a brilliant amount of spice to it all.

Unfortunately, my stomach was not as big a fan of the food as my taste buds were. I had had some bouts of heart burn in the past, but nothing like what I felt about five days into my Thai adventure. Everything I ate seemed to cause an intense pain between my shoulder blades. After a brief consultation with 20 or so Peace Corps doctors (if you’ve got to be sick, be sick at a medical conference), I was told I was experiencing esophagitis and that I should take it easy on the spicy foods.

After a day of consuming only water and Thai Pepto, I thought I’d try and eat something in the hotel restaurant. The menu, though filled with Thai dishes, fortunately had a few American staples. After looking at my options (hamburgers with onions and peppers, ribs with BBQ sauce), my best bet appeared to be the spaghetti Bolognese—hold the hot pepper flakes. It went down OK and I was cautiously optimistic about my culinary prospects for the rest of the trip.

Alas, even the most banal of Thai food still upset my stomach and my back. To this day I have no idea what caused my sudden sensitivity (the docs seemed to think it was MSG), but I know that for the rest of my vacation all I could eat was the Thai facsimile of spaghetti Bolognese.

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