Saturday, March 10, 2012

Buddhists Show How to Throw a Big Party, Cheap

How to give a big Thai party, living small.

Kalasin kids check out the Farang
We were in Kalasin, a province two hops from Viet Nam, in the most rural reaches of the Kingdom.  Unpainted houses on stilts, little more than enclosed platforms for sleeping, stood over expanses of wet red dirt inhabited by noisy chickens and children. 

Under one of these homes, some 70 neighbors had gathered  to welcome us and our Thai friends from Bangkok, a day's drive to the west. It was also a chance for the youngest children to see their first Farang (their name for pink skinned Westerners). They peered at us from a safe distance and fled giggling if we made eye contact.

Because it was a Thai party, it was a feast, and every morsel was fried or boiled over one wood fire topped by a small iron grate. No mulitple-burner ranges, no ovens, and certainly no microwaves. From this simple setup,  one cook produced a dozen dishes of chicken, fish, pork and exotic vegetables, aggressively seasoned but delightfully delicate too. Party-goers stopped to help with the chopping and peeling as needed.

The street in front of the party house.
We ate for hours and hours.

At home in America a party like that would take weeks of planning, cost hundreds, and require a day off work. In Kalasin, invitations went out the day before on the verbal grapevine. Guests brought what they had on hand -- a chicken, some herbs, a tin of rice. They even brought their own plates and spoons from home.  
What little fuss for such a memorable, joyful party. And no clean-up.  It seemed easy and natural for Thai farmers who have mastered the art of living small.
Note -- No photos of the party itself. We were participants, not observers, so we put our cameras away.

This post appeared in slightly different form in my other blog,, August 8, 2011.