This Omelet sings the Blues
Eating Mexican food in Thailand is like eating a tomato during an Idaho winter— out of season, out of place, lacking color and flavor. That’s what I think until I order a burrito at the Riverside Bamboo Restaurant in Chieng Khong, Thailand. I ask the barefoot owner/waiter how he developed such a talent for creating a dish out of beans, cheese, and tortillas that one bite can send a gringo back to the taco stand on 42nd Street.
Instead of talking about refried beans and lard, the owner starts to sing the Blues. As I sway a little to the rhythm, he stops singing to inform me that he can also play the guitar like B.B. King. I ask, “Did you visit Mississippi through a study abroad program and sell your soul to the devil?”
Changing subjects, the owner starts talking about food again. With a twinkle of love in his eye, he says the chef, his wife, doesn’t use recipes or measuring cups. She has never been to Mexico, never kissed a Latino, nor used peyote to inspire her fine Mexican cuisine. He explains the secret in one word –SOUL. He then eyes the Lonely Planet in my hand, asks if I’ve got travel in my soul, chuckles and walks away.
After dinner, I thumb through my trusty guidebook. Tired from a long bus ride, I just want to find a guest house that fits my two basic travel needs – inexpensive and with a hot shower. The Lonely Planet reads like highway signs. When the sign says food, restroom, and gas in 2 miles off exit 69, I can trust that life’s little creature comforts will be taken care of.
The next morning at the Namkhong Guest House, I order a dish of Pad Thai and an omelet. The noodles swam in oil, and the omelet looked like a yellow piece of dog shit.
Until I ate in the city of Chieng Khong, I was a racial food profiler. Several times I passed up Mexican, Italian, and Indian food in Thailand because the cooks didn’t have the right skin color. At the Riverside Bamboo Restaurant, I learned the hands that make a delicious quesadilla do not have to be Mexican. From the quality of this morning’s breakfast, I learned that not all Thai people make edible Pad Thai and omelets.
At one time in my life, I believed that omelets shouldn’t look like shit, and shit shouldn’t look yellow. Now I believe as long as it’s made with soul, then everything’s good.