The village where I grew up in Northern Thailand has become so westernized and changed so dramatically that few people could recall how it was 60 years ago. At first I wanted to write for my children and grandchildren to tell them what my world was like long ago. But friends have urged me to write for a wider audience convincing me that my journey through the years around food, around the continents and around life is worth sharing.
I invite you to join me as I navigate memories from my early years to the present. In doing so it feels like the Buddhist practice of circumambulation, a meditative clockwise walk around an object or a place of worship. In this case I shall circulate around a topic of food; growing, preserving, cooking and sharing of food.
I am the youngest daughter of a Chinese Thai family. When I was growing up, I had 8 siblings. Two died before I was born. My parents were self-made people and made their livelihood through entrepreneurship. They sold everything and anything to meet customers’ demand. My siblings and I were their apprentices and staff. I learned many useful lifelong skills. At the age of six while attending kindergarten, my responsibility was to grow vegetables and sell them at the market every morning before going to school. The garden was 3 kilometres (almost 2 miles) from home. The garden beds were 30 metres long and there were 10 all together. My mother cooked all our meals and I loved helping her in the kitchen. My parents were illiterate so all the lessons were verbal and hands-on…the very best kind.
Sixty years later, I am now living on a beautiful bush block 35 km northeast of Melbourne in Australia. I am once again growing vegetables, seedlings and cooking but in a very different environment. Walking 30 steps from my kitchen, I am on a tennis court where I grow vegetables in apple crates, each a cubic metre in size and there are 40 apple crates in total. My mother would be proud of me as I am still selling vegetables and cooking to meet the demand.
This is why I feel the process has been a “circumambulation”. My life has come full circle. As I reflect on my stories about the food I have gathered on my journey, my hope is to share the process, the knowledge, the fun, the successes and failures. I will share recipes, “how-to” and how NOT to. As you travel with me along Real Food Trails, I would be thrilled to hear your thoughts and walk your trails. Together we will learn and grow, ponder and reflect.
Let it be a meaningful trail.