Tag Archives: Breakfast

Drawn into the Egg-Centric Vortex (guest omelet review)

by John Alonge, proprietor of The San Diego Wine and Culinary Center

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On most days, the rustic-but-comfortable dining room at the Idaho Rocky Mountain Ranch is a pretty lively place at breakfast time. There’s a fire burning in the oversized 1930s fireplace and a big buffet spread of coffee, juice, cereal, bread, muffins and other delights. At every table, animated conversations can be heard. Ranch guests, bent over steaming platters of eggs, bacon and hash browns, wax on rhapsodically about their plans for the day. Some will hike to distant alpine lakes high in the Sawtooth mountains. Others will take a fly fishing lesson. A few will raft or kayak some portion of the Salmon River. Everyone has some energetic plan for the day and wants to tell their tablemates what they’ll be doing before dinner.

So, on this particular day in July, when a hush fell over the dining room shortly after 8 AM, I looked up from my banana pancakes quizzically, wondering what had happened. Glancing to my left, I saw Brandon (one of the Ranch staff members) spinning around a table snapping photos. Paige, one of the other Ranch guests, was sitting squarely before a plate which cradled an egg creation of some sort swathed in a rich overcoat of red salsa and flanked by several quarter-folded tortillas and a bunch of plump, purple grapes. I wondered what all the fuss was about.

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I jumped up from my seat to investigate. “What’s going on, Brandon?” I asked.

“Look at it!” he exclaimed with tantamount enthusiasm. “It’s an all yolk omelet!”

I peered down into Paige’s plate. Sure enough, her omelet exhibited a rich, deep golden hue of an intensity far beyond that of the ordinary egg scramble. I gazed upon it with rapture. I knew instantly that this was one of those moments of extraordinary significance that life reserves for us on very rare occasions. The extreme importance of the moment was just beginning to sink in.

Brandon continued to dance in circles around the table like a dingledodie, snapping photos at a frenetic pace. More and more people gathered to see what all the commotion was about. Soon, the focus of everyone in the dining room was the golden mass on Paige’s plate. Sandra, the General Manager, walked in and was instantly drawn irremediably into the egg-centric vortex. The fragile silence reigned like an ephemeral ice crystal on an aspen branch.

At last, after an anxious eternity, Paige picked up her fork and planted it in the preternatural pile of egg. Slowly, like a glacier advancing down a mountain couloir, she lifted the first all-yolk forkful to her mouth and engulfed it. Someone behind me gasped with emotion.

Immediately, I had a vision of tiny alevins, post-embryonic salmon rising from the gravel of the riverbed, a yolk sack attached to their tiny bodies for sustenance. Like some primeval ritual, the forkful of all yolk omelet being consumed by Paige joined the rich, protein-laced protuberance on the underbelly of the fledgling fish in a paroxysm of primitive life force. All the evolution of every species on the planet was suddenly nourished by that one single bite.

For that one, perfect instant, the future of the human race was assured.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………….

John Alongé, proprietor of San Diego Wine & Culinary Center, known as The San Diego Wine Heretic, personally presents a variety of classes, tastings and seminars, demystifying the sometimes arcane world of wine and entertaining groups of all sizes. He is a much sought after speaker for corporate and private groups all over the country.

Stanley Baking CO. & Cafe located in Stanley, Idaho

Eating, Reading, and Drinking in Stanley, Idaho
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The self-serve water dispenser is the first thing I notice at the Stanley Baking CO. & Cafe. Having just cycled nine miles on Highway 75 from Idaho Rocky Mountain Ranch, the free water is a welcome sight. The restaurant, like all of Stanley, Idaho, does not have a bike rack. However, I’m not concerned about my bike being stolen. Maybe it’s the Tibetan prayer flags flapping in the breeze beside the Bakery and subduing my anxiety. Or it’s the looming Sawtooth Mountains that are always watching and keep the bike thieves at bay.

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The inside of the restaurant does not have the usual dead animal motif. In fact, I couldn’t find any fur or scales on the wall. The only thing dying on the wall are pictures of snowy Sawtooth Mountains and an aging Dali Lama. The Sawtooths in the pictures are covered in old winter snow that hangs on throughout the summer. Now summer snow peaks are as rare as the returning salmon. Like the rivers that need the Fish and Game fish hatcheries to help maintain a semblance of a healthy stream, the mountains will need the Forest Service to haul up snow making equipment to keep the peaks looking majestic.

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While waiting for my omelet, I notice the aprons strung across the kitchen. The aprons remind me of the recent MaryJanesFarm magazine and the words of Jeannie Pierce: “Seeing a woman wear an apron lets you know she loves to create. Her creations may be pies or paintings or pottery, but she also produces an aura of comfort, ease, and curiosity. You just naturally think, ‘What is she making?” The cooks in the kitchen created a delicious omelet made with feta, cheddar, and tomato.

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After breakfast, I follow the dirt road from the Stanley Baking Co. & Cafe towards the mountains. The road becomes steep and bumpy leading up to a plateau, and the view from the top is worth the leg burn. The view is so amazing that some sort of human structure had to be built. Instead of a large house, a meditation chapel was erected, open to weekly church services and private special events. Next to the chapel, there’s a park. I choose the swing set over the chapel. I’d like to meet god swinging through the air, pretending that I’m a teenage sparrow rather than listening to a man dressed as a politician speaking god’s will.

Riding down the hill from the park, I pick up speed quickly. In a blink, I might cruise through the town of Stanley and end up back on Highway 75. I dash madly down the hill past the Bakery, then apply the brakes and turn left at the stop sign because the library is a great place to hang out.

The library keeps unusual hours. Luckily, today the library is open with two chairs unoccupied. With the library being so small, they wisely chose to fill the space with books instead of couches or large sofa type chairs. Sometimes when I’m at other libraries and the book I want is not available, I think, “Maybe if there weren’t so many chairs there would be room for the book I asked about!” The library has a small amount of magazines, but once again the librarian was thinking about space. Instead of filling up precious room with People or Vogue, there are copies of magazines like the National Geographic and Smithsonian. I pick up a magazine and read about people celebrating the 50th anniversary of Jack Kerouac’s On The Road. I decide it’s time for an afternoon cocktail.

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There are two bars close to the library: The Rod-N-Gun Saloon and The Kasino Club. The Kasino Club has open mic on Thursday nights and it happens to be smoke free. The Rod-N-Gun Saloon is not smoke free but opens at 2PM. I’ve been a fan of the Rod-N-Gun for a number of years. When I got my first poem published, Johnny Ray (the owner) let me recite it on stage. Back then, along with two of Stanley’s former mayors, Johnny Ray used to be in a cover band that played on the weekends.

At 2PM nothing’s happening. Johnny Ray and his wife are trying to talk me into buying tickets to see the comedian, Jason Resler, who’s appeared on Comedy Central and will be appearing at the Rod-N-Gun tonight. I’d go to the show, but I don’t feel comfortable riding my bicycle at night while sharing the highway with deer and drunk drivers.

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I order a cranvodka and listen to Jane’s Addiction on the jukebox. Part of the ceiling is covered in women’s panties. I can’t find a good quote about panties in MaryJanesFarm magazine. If panties had a pocket on the front, they could act as aprons.

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Here’s another quote by Jeannie Pierce from MaryJanesFarm magazine, edited to fit the context of the panties at the Rod-N-Gun Saloon: “With my panties, I carry snap peas, peppers, and cherry tomatoes after picking. I wipe my hands while canning and baking. I store tissues for my granddaughter’s occasional runny nose. My panties even give me a place to park my thimble and quilting thread. They make me feel like being busy with my hands.” I get my hands busy by taking the straw out of my cranvodka. Now I have to bring my drink to my lips. My afternoon cocktail gets me through $1 worth of Jane’s Addiction songs. I decide it’s time to go because trying to focus on riding between the white line and gravel edge of the road for nine miles can be a challenge sober much less buzzed.

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Klong Khood Homestay located on Ko Chang, Thailand

Slow to the Pace of a Turtle with a Broken Leg

People who spend time with infants know what it is like to go without a good night’s rest. Imagine 65 years of being woken up throughout the night — not by one’s child, but by one’s own snoring and snorting and gasping for breath.

65 years without a decent night’s sleep! That’s the story told by our new friend over omelets at the Klong Khood Homestay on the island of Ko Chang, Thailand. Enthusiastic about finally being able to find out the endings to his dreams, Daniel hurries to his bungalow mid-omelet and mid-conversation to return with the miracle machine.

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While he demonstrates his nighttime breathing device, I realize that after a few months in Thailand, my eating has slowed to the pace of a turtle with a broken leg. I now enjoy hearing the details of strangers’ sleeping habits between bites of omelet.

Financially successful Western individuals and people in traditional societies understand the pleasure of dining slowly. Take for example fine dining in the United States: a couple can finish a bottle of wine, rub one another’s thighs with their feet, and take the time to learn the name of the dairy in Idaho where the goat cheese was made.

In America, too many people spend their lives eating at the pace of a jackrabbit running from a kid with a bb gun. When life finally slows down to the point that you can enjoy it, your body aches and you find you can’t ride into the sunset with a walker. By American standards, slow and inattentive service is considered a hindrance to the enjoyment of one’s meal. In Thailand, it’s the opposite. Restaurants in Thailand do not embrace the idea of high turnover. Thai people do not tip, so the servers will make the same wage whether they serve one table or 20 in the span of a shift. After taking your order and serving your food, servers won’t approach your table again unless you get their attention. They never hand you the bill until you ask for it. You have no excuse not to chew your food 25 times per bite, have a New York Times style conversation, and get frisky.

Long after swallowing the last bite of omelet and rice, I’m still sitting at the table, talking with Daniel. Having gained one another’s trust over breakfast conversation about snoring, Amy and I load up on his rented motorcycle and join him for a hike to one of the many waterfalls on the island of Ko Chang.

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I’m looking forward to the day when American culture will allow the average restaurant patron to plop an artificial leg on the table that can inspire a two-hour conversation without the server blinking an eye.

Many Americans look forward to retirement as a time in their lives when they can finally slow down and enjoy life. Slow down young, and getting old simply means a long-awaited diner discount.

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Fishing for Breakfast Ko Chang, Thailand (short film)


Filmed on the island of Ko Chang in eastern Thailand. One side of the island is full of white sandy beaches and resorts for tourists. The other side is more of what the island used to be like—mangrove trees and fishing villages. We opted for a quiet, peaceful bungalow among coconut trees on the fisherman side of the island. Local fisherman, Visarn, let us tag along while he worked.

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Simba’s located in Chiang Rai, Thailand

Omelets Shouldn’t have Breasts
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From the street, Simba’s kitschy décor is what initially attracts me to try an omelet. Inside, I head straight for a comfy seat on the couch. A Thai woman hands me a menu while an American-looking man switches off the TV. I feel suspiciously like I’ve just walked into their living room, especially when I notice the furry cat running around.

The beautiful, Thai woman in her strappy sundress and heels is the server, and she’s also the cook. The older, American man laments that he can’t help out for fear of being deported. He grumbles that he has no work permit but seems perfectly content to leave his wife/girlfriend to tend to our omelet needs.

The surprise omelet bonus at Simba’s is the really friendly cat. Recently, I have been trying to pet more cats and dogs while eating omelets. This is in preparation for my upcoming trip to Laos. I figure if I can be comfortable with a pet beside my omelet, then the next step of a pet inside my omelet will be easy to swallow. Today my omelet experience is going smoothly, and I feel really comfortable about going to Laos to try my first dog or cat omelet.

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Everything is going well until I notice the art on the wall. In Thailand, where it is rare to see women bare their shoulders, posters of bare-breasted women seem out of place. Like a TV blaring a football game can distract a person from their buffalo wings, the art on the wall detracts from the omelet experience.

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The art is a strange mix of children and topless women, which starts me wondering about spatial relationships in the definition of child pornography. Some people might consider a photograph of a nude woman standing beside two children kissing to be pornographic. What about a photograph of a nude woman next to a photograph of two children kissing–is that pushing the envelope? What happens when you add an omelet to the picture?

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Additional note: As a society, we despise child pornography. Why do we uphold a standard of beauty for women to appear pre-pubescent by shaving their legs and armpits?

 

Same Same but Different Restaurant located in Sihanoukville, Cambodia

Ketchup has Failed Me

The restaurants at Serendipity Beach consistently serve the same horrible omelet saturated in grease with small pieces of onion intermixed with nibbles of carrot. Trying to finish one of these salty omelets is more depressing than watching tourists ignoring landmine victims as they scoot across the sand asking for money. I couldn’t even finish one of the omelets. This is the first time ketchup has failed me.

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I gave up and started eating a breakfast of baguettes with Nutella. After several days, I felt weak. I looked in the mirror and saw myself growing as thin as a cancer patient. I had to return to the nasty omelets for nourishment, and more importantly, for inspiration. Without omelets, I might waste away and creatively die.

One morning, I was sitting on the beach banging on a ketchup bottle when I noticed the man next to me staring. He said, “All that ketchup you’re going to pour on that repulsive omelet is full of corn. Read the bottle. The second ingredient is high fructose corn syrup. You’re going to get fat and die from eating too much corn.”

I broke down almost into tears, “The omelets are disgusting. I can’t go on like this.”

He said, “With my good looks, young Khmer bride, and imitation brand clothes, you would guess that I’m a healthy 50 year old. I’m actually 55 and a recovering chemo patient. You know how I ended up NOT being a hairless, dead Karen Carpenter? Marijuana! It gave me the appetite I needed to beat cancer!”

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The omelets at Same Same But Different are the same as everywhere else around Serendipity Beach, but the difference is the happy shakes on the menu. That nice man bought me my first happy shake. After three hours, I got these weird cravings that cancer patients call the munchies. Not only did the omelets taste good, I giggled at the smiley face that I made on the sand with ketchup.

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Same Same but Different Restaurant & Bar
Serendipity Beach
Sihanoukville, Cambodia

The Khmer Gourmet located in Sihanoukville, CambodiaThe

More American than Apple Pie

The Khmer Gourmet
Weather Station Hill
Sihanoukville, Cambodia

The omelets at The Khmer Gourmet are fluffy and spiced with black pepper. The coffee has nothing to do with Nestle; the dark brew comes from beans grown by local farmers.

Khmer Gourmet omelet

I watch the American owner who’s in his late 20’s go about his morning. He flips pancakes, smiles at his Khmer sweetheart, says goodbye to his French customers, and glows when talking about honeymoon plans.

I experience a sense of optimism. I realize he is living the usually unattainable American dream, the elusive dream that I read about in grade school history books, that pro athletes talked about in high school, and that I prepared for during my uneducated first year of college. This is the American dream that has nothing to do with suburbia, health insurance, and a 401K plan. The last time I experienced this sort of adulation for America was when I heard Arturo’s story. My old boss crossed the border twice. Once along the coast and another time through the desert. He met the beautiful daughter of a Thai woman and Vietnam vet. After she graduated from college, they married and created a family. They then put their money together and opened a restaurant. Luckily, cupid instead of an Arizona militiaman shot Arturo.

These thoughts of the American dream die along with Saddam’s last breath. There he is on the front page of the paper. The fastest way to ruin a decent omelet is to read about U.S. foreign policy. I wish my country wasn’t the largest arms exporter with a large population of citizens who pledge allegiance to admitted liars. I wish it had a government that can be held accountable for crimes against humanity.

With the Cambodians and Europeans that I meet at The Khmer Gourmet, I would rather discuss huckleberries, the Sawtooth Mountains, and Senator Frank Church. I would rather tell them about Arturo from Moscow, Idaho than try to explain my government’s actions in the headlines of the Bangkok Post.

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I’d like to write a poem
while I’m on holiday in Cambodia.
There’s a rule to repetition.
I learned it a while ago.

While I’m on holiday in Cambodia,
with monkeys, goats and elephants.
I learned it a while ago,
and Brandon—he says he knows it.

With monkeys, goats, elephants,
prostitution, peace, and tourism.
Brandon—he says he knows it.
He’s eatin’ omelets and talkin’ politics,

prostitution, peace, and tourism—in Cambodia.
New year’s bombs in Bangkok.
eatin’ omelets and talkin’ politics—
democracy, by the way, is failing in Iraq

New year’s bombs in Bangkok,
read it in the Bangkok Post, saw it on CNN.
democracy is failing in Iraq and the USA,
and the talk is all about—Saddam Hussein.

read it in the Bangkok Post, saw it on CNN.
Bush is holding out for victory, but—How does he define it?
the talk is all about Saddam Hussein,
with the Khmer Rouge long forgotten

I define victory as peace
while sipping Anchor beer and sitting on the beach.
The Khmer Rouge, long forgotten by many, but
Cambodia remembers—leaders yet to be tried for their crimes.

While sipping Anchor beer and sitting on the beach,
I wonder if my children will be tourists in Iraq.
We ride a moto through the countryside,
Celebrate the new year with sparklers and fireworks.

I wonder if my children will be tourists in Iraq.
We ride a moto through the countryside
the kids all wave and yell—Hello!
there’s a rule to repetition that I broke a while ago.

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Besides fluffy omelets, Khmer Gourmet serves the best desserts on the Hill.

Something all Americans should know about: “America…From Freedom to Fascism,” a documentary by Aaron Russo. Determined to find the law that requires Americans to pay income tax, Aaron Russo sets out on a journey. Neither left- nor right-wing, this startling examination exposes the systematic erosion of civil liberties in America. Through interviews with US Congressmen, a former IRS Commissioner, former IRS and FBI agents, tax attorneys and authors, Russo connects the dots between money creation, federal income tax, voter fraud, the national identity card (becoming law in May 2008) and the implementation of radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to track citizens. A striking case about the evolving police state in America.

Cambodia Club located in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

An Omelet in Phnom Penh
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Loud banging in the hallway wakes me, as a man at our guesthouse tries to rouse his friend sleeping in the room next to ours. The gruff, German-accented voice shouts, “Hey! Shooting range in thirty minutes! Wake up!” The banging stops, and heavy footsteps move urgently down the hallway. From the sound of it, he’s amped for a morning of AK-47s and grenade launching. Now that I’m awake, I just want an omelet. It’s 6 A.M. and time to begin another day in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

The refreshing morning rays of sunlight are forgotten as soon as I exit the guesthouse. Before even reaching the street, I am bombarded by yells, waves, and a crowd of guys jostling for the opportunity to sell me a ride on the back of a scooter or in a carriage pulled by a scooter (also called a tuk-tuk). In Cambodia, anyone with a scooter can be a moto-taxi driver.

With so many guys looking for the job, you might think finding a driver would be a simple task. It’s not. I tell the crowd of drivers my destination and they don’t understand. I pull out my map of the city and point to where I’d like to go. They discuss in Khmer, and then nod their heads and say, “Okay, I know. Three dolla.” Three dollars! None of the taxis use a meter, so now it’s time to negotiate a fare. When the driver agrees to 75 cents, I hop on back.

En route, the driver proceeds to ask, “I take you to the killing fields? You want to go to Tuol Sleng?” (genocide museum). This is the equivalent of going to San Francisco and every driver wanting to take you to Alcatraz. The driver never once asks if I want to eat an omelet that possesses the beauty of a Cambodian woman, an omelet so delicious that it sends you to a spiritual realm only surpassed by Angkor Wat, an omelet with such soul that it symbolizes the future direction of Cambodia. Instead of discussing genocide and omelets, I ask to be driven to the river where the tourists hang out.

There’s an old omelet proverb: “You have to break a few eggs to make an omelet.” Sacrifices must sometimes be made in order to arrive at a wonderful end product, but this is not the case for Cambodia. As an American whose country waged a secret war on Cambodia, I see a broken egg and no breakfast served. The great USA did not even bother to turn on the stove or even wash a tomato.

The driver drops me off at the Cambodia Club, a restaurant that boasts an omelet with veggies and mozzarella cheese. The restaurant sits along a paved street that overlooks the river. There is a fresh breeze coming off the water, and from this distance, the trash along the bank is hidden from view. The tranquility ends as fast as it begins.

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The constant interruptions to my pleasurable time are like a snooze alarm that invades a fantastic dream. Children approach the table between sips of coffee, conversation, and bites of omelet. The breakfast dream disappears and reappears between successions of snoozes. The kids are selling books about Cambodian history, the Pol Pot regime, and S-21.  Eventually, the pleasure found in the omelet is killed by death, amputees, whores, and the reality that lurks behind titles such as “Off the Rails in Phnom Penh: Into the Dark Heart of Guns, Girls, and Ganja.” The snooze alarm wins. I now see the omelet as nothing more than a way to survive. I just need some energy to get out of this city.

Cambodia Club
corner of Sisowath Quay and Street 178
Phnom Penh, Cambodia

for more information about this beautiful city, see Persevering in Phnom Penh, an article on GoNomad.com

While eating an omelet, I heard an Oink-Oink

I’m eating a Cambodian-style fried egg omelet with steamed rice and vegetables on the side when I hear an oink-oink.

Excited, I get up to follow the animal sounds. Usually in the States, food is trucked in from places all over the country. Not only does a person eat an out-of-state pig, a Texas farmer might have given it large amounts of drugs, an awful farmer’s teenage son might have made sweet love to the pig in Mississippi, and the pig might have eaten its own disease-ridden, dead mother in Ohio. Finally, you scarf its remains on a hung over Sunday morning, take drags off your smoke in between bacon bites, and wash down the last morsel with an orange juice drink that tastes like flavored sugar water. I don’t eat pigs, but I’ve lived with similar horrific thoughts about a leaf of spinach.

I make my way to the back of the restaurant where the smells become stronger and the flies swarm thicker. Just past the restrooms, I find a pen of five little pigs all looking up at me and wanting to be held. I almost pick one up and hold it close to my bosom, like Tory Amos in the Boys for Pele album. All of a sudden, a big brown pig appears over the sidewall of its stall. His eyes follow me, like a grade school teacher who could have looked at twenty other students but chose me for no apparent reason. Stop staring at me, pig!! Why don’t you stare at the other pigs or the chained-up monkey?

I would like to eat all the pigs to take them out of their misery, much like I do when I see a cluster of miserable over-ripe bananas. I return to my meal to find it infested with flies.

To watch a video of this omelet review, including the pigs and chained-up monkey, click the photo below

“Kai jiao sai noei kang lae hed” translates to “omelet with cheese and mushrooms”

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Sometimes I carry a Thai phrasebook that includes the Thai translation for everyday words and useful phrases, but so far, we have been getting by just fine knowing how to say “hello” and “thank-you” in Thai. It’s entertaining to know that, if necessary, I could look up how to say, “Can we negotiate? I didn’t do it intentionally. Can I just pay a fine?” It’s reassuring that the phrasebook also includes “Omelete with cheese and mushrooms.” If we get desperate for an omelet during our Thailand travels, we can go to a restaurant and point to the word in the phrasebook, and an omelet will appear like magic. I’m sure of it. We’ll have to point because I don’t trust my pronunciation of “Kai jiao sai noei kang lae hed.” Who knows what might end up on a plate in front of us.

At Windy Restaurant, the menu was in Thai and English. No need for the phrasebook, we just pointed to the menu where it said “Omelet + tuna.” For a second dish, we pointed to “Fired rice + mixed vetgetables.” I sipped a creamy banana shake while waiting for our meal, and it was a good thing I’d slurped it all down by the time the omelet arrived. Otherwise, the shake may have come out of my nose with laughter at seeing the perfect square of processed cheese atop a greasy omelet.

After Brandon’s former rants about processed cheese, I was surprised to see that he ate the slimy stuff with a look of pleasure on his face. I wonder if he would also enjoy country music, Twinkies, and KFC after just a week away from the familiar comforts of home.

Windy Restaurant
corner of Thoncharoen Rd. and Yai On Soi
Trat, Thailand