Beirut and an Unfortunate Realization

I was contemplating this week’s Foodie Friday post the other day as I wasted time on the internet. I knew that Todd and I were going to go out for dinner on our anniversary, and I figured I’d just take photos of whichever restaurant we ended up going to. Then, I accidentally stumbled across a bunch of websites criticizing the trend of hipsters taking photos of their meals (such as here and here). Somehow, it never occurred to me that taking pictures of what you eat is an obnoxious trend – I love seeing photos of food, and I couldn’t be a hipster if I tried. I comforted myself by saying “don’t worry, self. This is for a blog post.” Then the realization hit me: taking photos of food for a blog is taking the trend to a whole new level. Not only do you engage in the obnoxious behaviour of photographing your food, you then go on to write about your narcissistic consumption experience. Hmmm.

I contemplated this for awhile, but it made me hungry. So I grabbed T-bone and went to Beirut, a Lebanese restaurant in the Thong Lo area. Nothing that a little a lot of garlic can’t solve. Soon, my fears had passed, and I was ready to once again take low quality, low resolution photos of food. Sorry, hipster haters.

Our meal started off with an assortment of vegetables and dips that were basically pure garlic cloaked in fat. So good.

Vegetable platter

Clockwise from left: tahini (sesame seed paste), labneh (garlic and cheese), jalapeno puree

Choosing our entrees was extremely difficult. I have a bit of a Lebanese food fetish, and Lebanese restaurants are few and far between in Bangkok. There were so many options, and I just knew that I would make the wrong choice and live with gastric regret. Fortunately, the restaurant had platter options – meals that include four different choices. And fortunately, I knew that I could coerce my husband into sharing with me (“It’s our anniversary, darling. You should celebrate our love by sharing all your food with me.”).

After much careful deliberation, I went with the following platter:

Clockwise from top left: Tabouleh (parsley/couscous/tomato/garlic salad), hummus, stuffed vine leaves, chicken shawarma

While Todd went with these treats:

Chicken shawarma, meat sambosa (meat pastry), tabouleh, mouhammara (nut/tomato/garlic/bread crumb dip)

IMG_2098

The platter with Todd in the background to give you an idea of its size

I was feeling intense fear at the thought that I would miss out on an important taste experience, so we also ordered this:

Cheese sambosa (deep-fried cheese pastry)

Maybe it’s because I hadn’t eaten Lebanese food in such a long time, but our meals tasted amazing. Pure garlic deliciousness. I was basically comatose with food joy. I could hardly speak, which didn’t necessarily make for the most riveting dinner conversation, but it was worth it. We waddled out a few hours later, and we fully intend to visit Beirut again.

What do you think? Are people who take photos of food obnoxious?

Happy Birthday to Me!

Sunday, January 20th marked the 28th anniversary of the best day of my parents’ lives: the day their favourite child arrived on this terrestrial sphere. Sadly, they were not in Bangkok to personally thank me for being born, but T-bone stepped up to the plate quite nicely. He planned a celebration that included two of my favourite things: food and crocodiles. I’m not sure why I like crocodiles so much, but something about their snaggle-toothed grins just does it for me. A group of our friends from school were kind enough to humour me on my birthday, and joined us for an afternoon at The Samut Prakan Crocodile Farm and Zoo. It claims to be the biggest crocodile farm in the world, and after a day of traipsing around its lagoons, I believe it.

I am the Crocodile Whisperer.

We spent a lot of time staring at the baby crocodiles, simply because we didn’t yet realize that the zoo had other exhibits. Besides, it took awhile to fully take in this reptilian goodness.

They just love a good cuddle.

The exhibits were quite strange – the various enclosures clearly contained different varieties of crocodiles, but there were no interpretive signs except this:

It also looked like the crocodile pits were located next to the employee housing. I’d have a hard time sleeping if I lived next to these fellows.

Nothing like Saturday morning coffee on the patio with 5000 of your favourite reptilian friends.

After awhile, we made our way to the crocodile wrestling show. It was pretty lame and mildly depressing. The crocodile wrestlers dragged bored looking crocodiles out of the water, and made them open their mouths and snap them shut.

Come on, crocodiles! Show them who’s boss.

We left part way through the show, and boarded a toy train that looped around the park.

We l-o-v-e riding kiddie trains in creepy animal parks!

We soon realized that the park is huge, and contains a variety of large animals. Some of the enclosures seemed fairly well designed, but others were cramped and dirty. It was sad to the see the conditions that some of the animals had to live in, and particularly sad to see chimpanzees dressed up and chained to tables so that tourists could take pictures with them.

One of the craziest parts of the experience was how close you could get to the animals. There was only a chain-link fence separating us from full-grown tigers and lions, and you could feed and touch (if you’re insane) adult hippos. Actually, you could feed pretty much any animal you chose. I had a small heart attack watching unaccompanied small children near open cages.

Why? We’re so friendly! (Did anyone else play Hungry Hippos during their childhood?!)

I couldn’t resist this little fella

I hardly saw any zoo employees in the whole place, which felt pretty sketchy, especially when we discovered the adult crocodile lagoons.* A wooden bridge wound its way over multiple lagoons filled with hundreds of MASSIVE crocodiles. At several points, we were only a few feet above the crocs, and the bridge was not what you’d call “sturdy.” If you so desired, you could also drop raw chickens in the water for the crocodiles to eat.

This crocodile tried to delicately conceal himself behind a small pink flower.

Perhaps the strangest part of the zoo, though, was the – and I quote – ‘Handicapped Crocodile Exhibit.’ This was a series of small cages that contained crocodiles who were ‘damaged goods’ in one way or another. One had a wonky mouth, another had a forked tail, another was albino. The craziest part was that you could easily reach over the bit of fence and stroke the crocodiles should you desire to do so. I couldn’t bring myself to photograph the exhibit.

Instead, a photo of a stuffed baby crocodile wearing a shirt. Gotta maintain his modesty.

I finally had my fill of crocodiles, and we left the zoo for dinner at a Lebanese restaurant. Awkwardly, I managed to get a photo of the food, but not the friends. Oops! Thanks for coming!

yummmmmmmmm

And one last birthday moment: Cute Patriotic Texas Beth made this adorable tea towel for me. I feel that crocodiles will be the next trend in home decor.

He is wearing an apron that my mother made for me. I feel that the universe is conspiring to domesticate me.

* Speaking of sketchy, during the monsoon floods in Bangkok last year, a bunch of crocodiles escaped from the farm. There are photos on the internet of people checking on their submerged cars. They glance behind them, and BAM! Massive carnivores out for a playful paddle…