Chopsticks on stainless-steel food-stall tables. Bangkok, November 2012.
Or white linen tablecloths and well mannered waitstaff...what's your preference? Bangkok, November 2012.
After hello sirs and good evening sirs we're shuffled to a two-top and given menus in English. The description reads "Traditional Khmer cuisine served in an environment accessible for Westerners." Are we all Westerners? I sit perplexed - first pondering if the food will be up to par, next as to how to fold or unfold my polyester napkin properly in my lap. It's been ages since I've sat down at a proper restaurant - even if the disco tunes next door and wafting drones of cell phone melodies make their way to our secluded patio dining area. They've tried their darnedest to keep us separated from those next door, those "hooligans" drinking straight from the beer can and disposing of their napkins (often disguised as toilet paper) on the ground.
The waiter's dress shoes clatter a pit-pat-pit-pat across the recently cemented floor. With permission he pours our drinks and lights an anti-mosquito coil beneath our feet. The curry arrives (a green curry with fish, which isn't bad). A moment later I stain the tablecloth attempting to balance slippery mango between my chopsticks -- I guess that's why forks are provided? What a mess. Am I out of practice or out of place? More plates arrive as our floating candle burns out and another is lit.
This façade of fine dining is unnecessary, the training or domestication of servers unfit. At least for me. I want to be back in the wild, back on a stool the size of a Pomeranian, free to lick my fingers, and throw fruit pits on the ground. I miss the Vietnamese sisters in the market that memorized my breakfast fruit shake order and steadily perfected their "see you tomorrow." I miss toilets that are actually holes - sometimes ceramic - low to the ground. I miss feeling like one of them - and worse yet, doesn't taste as good.
Nyaung Shwe, Burma. December 2012.
Rangoon, Burma. December 2012.