The oven

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Steve, unfaithful again. Paxil, I hope you aren’t reading this. “Free” said the shop-owner, pointing at the cat while running our tab. “I don’t feed her” he said. “What’s her name?” I asked. “Suay”  he said. That’s “Beautiful” in Thai. I don’t believe he doesn’t feed her. Do you?

I’ve always had an oven. Even when we were so poor that we had to wash our hair with detergent and brush our teeth with salt (we couldn’t afford niceties like shampoo and toothpaste),  we had an oven. That was my happy place. Our communist ratio of 5 eggs a month, 3 kilos of meat a year and margarine instead of butter put us into vegan territory, but the oven was still heat and food and love.

I’ve been hungry for as long as I can remember – I still am, most of the time – so an oven was a must. We’ve had 2 of them every place we lived for the last 20 years. Our ovens helped make our house a home, but we’re in Thailand now. Ovenless.

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The kitchen at Lert Ross, Steve’s favorite restaurant, and the hard working chef. At 7AM the scooter is back from the market loaded with cabbage and stuffs, and the broth is already simmering even though they only open at noon.

Did I ever tell you about Thai kitchens? Maybe not, I think, since there’s not much to tell. Most Thai kitchens are the size of an average dining room table (restaurants included) and they produce the most amazing food.  I can’t make anything like it at home with my two ovens and appliances and all the facilities I get.

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Our $12 lunch cooked by the gentleman above included a SomTum (spicy green papaya salad with tiny dried shrimp), a grilled Tilapia stuffed with lemongrass and limes, a TomYumGoong (flaming hot and sour shrimp and mushroom soup) and plenty enough hydration. And some cabbage leaves just because.

It would be foolish to try to cook Thai, I thought – more on that later – but an oven… I can do things like apple pie and turkey and pizza. They make me feel happy and successful. Our kitchen is the size of a large shoebox, barely big enough for a microwave. The fridge lives outside in the hallway and THERE IS NO DISHWASHER OTHER THAN STEVE. That puts a twist on marriage. You should try it if you’re brave.

I decided to get an oven. For my sanity, my self respect and the love of our friends, I’ll get an oven.

I did. We did. A small one. Not small enough. It doesn’t fit in the kitchen.

Well, maybe it does. But then we don’t. Not at the same time, at least.

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Our kitchen. All of it. The stove is on the left, the microwave on the right and the glasses with passion fruit waiting for rum in between. Rum makes everything better.

We moved it to the balcony. It liked it there. But it needed something to sit on. We got it a table. That was a social experiment.

We bought it at one of the “Everything and then some” stores down the road and Steve decided to carry it home. As he’s navigating the narrow space between 100 parked scooters, a guy stops him. “I like your T-shirt,” he says. “I’m from San Diego.”

Steve was confused but polite. “Good for you” he said, jumping aside to avoid an incoming motorcycle, before he realized that the “I’d rather be jamming, San Diego” printed on his T-shirt prompted this.

Another 5 minutes and a half a pound of sweat later a Thai gentleman stops him. “Do you know what wood this is?” “No” we said truthfully. “Lubber wood.” he said. We looked at him trying to seem intelligent. We failed. “Lubber!” he repeated helpfully. We failed again. He went to a parked car showing us the tires. “Lubber” he said. “Oh, rubber!” Steve said. He smiled thankfully and took off with the table leaving me behind.

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“Where are you from?” “US” “Where in the US?” “North” I said. He has a sister who owns a restaurant in San Diego – do I know her? Probably not, I said. “It’s close to the prison”, he said. “You know the prison?” “Not yet” I said, and I ran after Steve who was by this time wearing the table on his head in the manner of African women carrying water, only less gracefully,  and was now chatting a Thai lady I hadn’t met.

“How much for the table?” she asked in English while carrying her utensils to fix dinner for many at a cafe nearby. “239”, I said, heaving from the heat, following Steve. “SOK”, she approved, so we continued our trip to the condo to the delight of the many passers by. We were a hit, Steve mainly. We made it home. Guess what?

The shelf doesn’t fit in the kitchen.

It works on the balcony, though, so we set it up to cook the weirdest chicken in a long time – roast chicken with onions, tomatoes, carrots, baby corn, Thai eggplant, oyster mushrooms, cilantro and chives anyone?

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Outdoor cooking – Thai chicken a la Rada. Notice the Paprika? Steve did.

Stay safe and have fun, you all. And remember, rum makes everything taste better. Even my weird chicken.

Stay in touch will you?

The Joneses.

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