Cooking for 20

The older I get, the more I realize that I am deeply impulsive. This affects many areas of my life, with mixed results: “Yes, I will eat that doughnut. Yes, I will learn to motorbike on an Indian highway. Yes, I will give a ride to the little old man that I found in the University parking lot. Yes, I will (attempt to) eat nothing but rice and daal for the entirety of Lent.” My most recent impulsive decision was to invite our entire apartment building over for supper on Monday night.* Todd gave me his best wizened math teacher look – “are you sure you understand what you’re doing?”, but he knows better than to get between me and my impulses.

These eyes have seen things

I have hosted large-ish groups of people before, but 20 was a little more ambitious than usual. No problem, I thought. We’ll just do bread/chicken/salad. Nothing could be simpler. I started off with the shopping. First stop, the deli, where I found already cooked, whole chickens. “You want it cut?” asked the lady behind the counter. Except she didn’t speak English, so our conversation went something like this:

“Khaaaa khaaa na-kaa sawadeee-kaaaahhhh??”

“Give ‘er.”

“Khaa. Na-kha. Ok-kha. Khaaaaaaaaa.”

She proceeded to cut the chicken in a way that is unique and special to Thailand. Take a cleaver and just start whacking that chicken. Don’t worry about things like “carving” or “slicing.” Just hack it until your arm gets tired, then huck the pieces onto a Styrofoam tray.

Sorta like swinging a golf club

I dumped the chicken into a cart, and headed for the bread and veggies. Hmmm. 8 heads of lettuce should be enough…

I finally finished shopping,  heaved everything into a taxi, prayed that the driver didn’t take off with my groceries, and hopped in. Hard part is done, I thought.

Until I remembered that I had to wash and prepare veggies in a kitchen built for an elf. The counter space is smaller than that of a child’s Fisher Price play house, and it was completely taken up with the dish rack. So I improvised.

This is the entire counter

Yes, I did sterilize the sink before I filled it with food

After all the vegetables were clean, I realized that I had a second problem – my elfin refrigerator. It is just about big enough to hold a carton of milk and a few ice cubes. There was no way that it was going to hold multiple salad bowls.

Bursting with plastic-wrapped goodness

So I improvised again:

HomePro offers the best all-purpose bags

And then I headed off to Thai class. Todd and I assembled the salads and other food when we got home. I was getting nervous that there wouldn’t be enough food, that people wouldn’t fit into our apartment, that… But everyone squished in, and there were even enough random chicken parts left over for supper the next day.

A blurry shot of the bread. Served on our desk

An even blurrier shot of the salad table. My arm needs a tripod

The lovely Americans (with a smattering of Taiwanese) that share our apartment building

The night ended with birthday cake. With 20+ people in the building, the birthday celebrations are never-ending.

Sometimes, adjusting to life here is challenging, and I miss people at home. At dinner, though, I was reminded that we live in an apartment building full of truly nice people – I am grateful to be experiencing life in Thailand with them. Inviting everyone over for dinner was one of my better impulsive decisions.

* Dear Teacher Friends – I promise that I did not invite you over for dinner just so that I could blog about it!