As I was thinking about traditions and my mom slowly dealing with the fact that she wasn’t getting her typical New Year’s Day meal because we spent that day at a softball field in Orlando, I began to think of all the food I’ve had. The worst, the best, and the ones I’m totally obsessed with like New York style pepperoni pizza. I thought to myself, “I wonder if Chawin thinks any of my meals are gross…”

 

So, I posed this question to our students:

 

Best and worst foods so far? I won’t even lie, I laughed a quite a few of these.

A typical New Year’s Day tradition that my family and I failed to celebrate this year is eating black-eyed peas, cabbage, and cornbread. Even the least superstitious of us typically eat this or something similar for the holiday, but we’ll say it’s because we like the food rather than saying things like, “why tempt fate?” or “I need some good luck!”

Peas for pennies, greens for dollars, and cornbread for gold; you can even throw in some pork for progress. It’s funny the traditions you read about. Did you know you’re not supposed to eat lobster or chicken on New Year’s Day? Some believe eating lobster is bad luck because it moves in a backwards direction and could cause setbacks throughout the year. Also, eating chicken could cause your luck to fly away since they are winged.

 

As I was thinking about traditions and my mom slowly dealing with the fact that she wasn’t getting her typical New Year’s Day meal because we spent that day at a softball field in Orlando, I began to think of all the food I’ve had. The worst, the best, and the ones I’m totally obsessed with like New York style pepperoni pizza. I thought to myself, “I wonder if Chawin thinks any of my meals are gross…”

 

So, I posed this question to our students:

 

Best and worst foods so far? I won’t even lie, I laughed a quite a few of these.

 

Davíd: “So my worst food here were almost all the dishes. People here love spicy food, we in Colombia are not as used to eat that many spicy foods. Here, people even put pepper on their eggs. That was really crazy for me in the first days, I couldn’t stand it and couldn’t finish some meals. I am getting more used now, but I still don’t like it. My favorite food has been jambalaya. Which is similar to a plate in Colombia but with different spices.”

 

Sofia: “Best food(s): Zacusca. It’s a kind of paste made from roasted red bell peppers and tomatoes, and my favorite type is with mushrooms!! It’s a little Spicy and it tastes Smokey and it’s great on toast (but the Romanians are more likely to put it on untoasted bread). Mici. It’s a kind of sausage that’s put on the grill and then served with mustard. Great combo.

Worst/unusual food: Pickled watermelon. It doesn’t taste bad, but it was definitely an oddity and something I’d never even heard of before. Also... a lot of people eat pizza with ketchup. Like DIPPED in ketchup.”

 

Chawin: He had a tough time with this one because he loves just about everything. We were talking the other day while I was making dinner and he realized that the worst food he’s had here was “fake Thai food”. There’s was a little restaurant in Biloxi and he was so excited to go, but when he got his panang curry he was so disappointed. He showed me a picture of it and said, “See, it’s fake. It’s not real panang!” We’ve also discovered his love for Mexican food. There’s a restaurant in Bay St. Louis called El Maguey and we probably go once a week; sometimes more depending on what sport we have and how much time it takes up. He devours Mexican. My youngest daughter will typically zoom her hand up and down the menu until he says stop and that’s what he orders. Oh, and he loves Popeye’s!

 

Ruthie: “Best foods that I've eaten in Thailand: (I couldn't think of just one so you get three. A meal dish, a dessert, and a snack)

 

1. ?????? (Bummy) it's a noodle dish. Basically just noodles, chopped greens, slices of meat, and little balls of these compacted fish things are put in a bowl with chicken or seafood broth. I enjoy this dish because I love noodles, and there aren't many ways you can eat noodles in the u.s. without it being considered unhealthy, but ?????? is an exception, plus it's made with delicious and exotic Thai seasonings. This dish is also versatile and you can get different versions of this dish, like Tom yum style (spicy style), seafood style, vegetarian style, or more! It's just super tasty and can be found anywhere from the food court at the mall to the Saveone night market.

 

2. ??????? (Chao- guay) When I first tried this dessert, my host dad told me it was inspired by a certain Chinese dessert that some Thais long ago had discovered. Anyway this dish is this cold black liquid that goes along with these jelly cubes that taste a little like licorice but have a different texture. Ice cubes are often dropped into the sugary liquid alongside the jelly pieces to keep the dish cold. ??????? is sweet and full of whatever flavor the black liquid is made of (I can't put my tongue on the flavor, I just know it's tasty) and the texture of the jelly cubes just adds to the already delicious taste. (I'm not sure how else to describe this dish because it's difficult but maybe schawin would be better at it? Sorry...)

 

3. ?????????? (cow-neow) (Sticky Rice snacks) So it can already be established that sticky rice is amazing! It's served during meal times, during desserts, with ice cream, and even as snacks. I think my favorite way that sticky rice is served is by sweetening it, rolling it up in a banana leaf, and steaming it (or sometimes just mildly cooking it over a fire). The rice is usually warm, soft, and sweet. It also has this distinct flavor that separates it from any other type of sticky rice; it kinda tastes similar to roasted marshmallow. Sometimes you can mix coconut with the rice or have different kinds of fruits, meats, or breads be wrapped around the sticky rice. It's become one of the foods that I try to look for when my family goes to the market to buy dinner.

 

Worst foods I've tried: (I couldn't really think of many Thai dishes that I didn't like, but that's also just because I couldn't remember the names of some of them. I do remember one seafood dish (because I don't like seafood) and then a super gross dish that's gross not just for its flavor.)

 

1. ???????? (goong-yang) (Grilled prawn) This dish is self explanatory, just prawn (or shrimp) that are grilled and served. I actually ate this for the first time on my second day in Thailand. I was taught how to peel them and which parts to eat, and it was almost exactly like peeling and eating crawfish. I didn't like this dish strictly because I don't really like seafood that much and this specific dish had a big seafood taste along with an underlying burnt flavor. But overall this dish is loved by many westerners and Thais alike, so if you ever come to Thailand, I suggest trying it anyway because most people say it tastes amazing.

 

2. ?????? (sok-lek) (Pork blood) This dish is also pretty self explanatory. A bit of pork meat sopping in pig's blood. Legit my host family doesn't even call it pig's blood, they just say they're "eating blood." Pork blood is an Isaan dish, meaning it belongs to the northeastern culture of Thailand, and it's also my host dad's favorite Isaan dish. At first, when he ordered it off the menu of the restaurant we were at months ago, I was morbidly intrigued. He said it was good, yet my host mother was arguing that it was gross. When it came I tried some and it just tasted....weird. It was warm, salty, and tasted like metal. The flavors themselves weren't too bad, the problem with the dish is the flavor was so STRONG and filled my mouth up with it before I could even react to it. In the end I decided it tasted too much like metal and also it was still a teensy bit sickening to remind myself that it was blood. I ended up teasing my host dad about being a vampire for enjoying it and he laughed. But yeah, I would recommend tasting ?????? if you come to Thailand but only so you could say you tried it. If you actually do like it that's cool too, but I would find it hard to believe!”

 

Serena: “I don’t think I have had bad food here tbh.”

 

The conversation that ensued after this is so hilarious I have to share:

 

Felice: “Hahaha some Colombians eat guinea pigs and stuffed cow intestines. @david I love your country, I promise. Sometimes I’m just happy that I’m a vegetarian.

 

(insert like a bagillion laughing/crying emojis from us all)

 

Davíd: “Girl, we have the best meats. That cow things, Rellena, is delicious.”

 

Felice: “Hahahahaha it is definitely something”

 

I was literally laughing out loud at work and had to tell my coworkers what I was talking about!

 

Here’s Felice’s actual response: “Favorite and least favorite foods in Colombia... this one is tricky. I only wake up in the morning for the promise of Colombian coffee and a fresh, hot arepa (like a mix between cornbread and a pancake, but ten times better than both). I love to snack on this country's huge variety of fruits, and learn how to cook new vegetables. My favorite dinner is hot chocolate and the bread from the bakery down the street. Cooking is part of the culture in Colombia, and I am in love with all of the freshly made food I get to eat here on a daily basis. My family was horrified when I explained to them the concept of "microwave dinners".

However, sometimes I do get tired of rice every day, because in Colombia, a meal isn't a meal unless it includes rice. And, the idea of eating guinea pigs or stuffed and fried cow intestines does freak me out a little. Colombians do eat a lot of meat, in many different forms.”

 

So, what I’ve learned from this month’s responses is that Chawin should never cook for Davíd because everything he cooks is spicy, Serena and Chawin just love food in general, Sofia lives in a country of ketchup lovers, Felice definitely does NOT love cow intestines, and Ruthie is willing to try just about anything… including pork blood!

 

When our three outbounds get home, I think our clubs should get together for one big social and enjoy some home cooking as well as Thai, Colombian, and Romanian cooking!

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