27 Mar 2009

A Free Lunch, Thai Style

As the global recession drags itself from country to country like the grim reaper it is sometimes worth noting how bountiful nature itself can be. The Thai government has finally revised down its estimate of economic activity to a modest contraction. The brief English-language news on MCOT TV said that “exports were in the red”. Not sure how exports can be negative so assume they were referring to the current monthly trade balance. As exports drop the fear is of a disproportionately large increase in unemployment. As budgets tighten the agrarian heart of Thailand does what it has done for centuries – it just carries on and feeds its people.

It struck me yesterday that we had spent virtually nothing on a meal for six people that would easily have cost a month's wages in Bangkok. First on the chopping block was a turkey. They've produced some healthy chicks so time for a little cull of the older beasts. A full turkey made a huge coconut curry plus industrial quantities of Thai soup spiced with lemon grass, ginger, wild basil plus a host of other herbs and the obligatory chillies – all of them care of the land surrounding our house.

Just to add to the feast some friends had gone to help my wife take a look at the cassava and eucalyptus we grow as cash crops on land about 20 minutes from the village. As Thais work best whilst having some fun, they also decided to see if they could catch any fish from a small pond near the land. Indeed, rather than the usual assortment of babies they managed a fair-sized catch this time. Boiled in a rich herb sauce, I only saw it once it was curled up on the serving platter, but must have been well over a kilo.

Added to the animal fare and the herbs and spices, we also had fresh coconut and jackfruit. The only things we had to pay for were ingredients like salt and soy sauce as well as the rice. I guess the turkey did cost some money. They tend to just wander around eating seeds and food scraps we throw away, but we also have proper poultry feed for those times we are away for a few days. The time taken to catch the fish was worthwhile considering how much it would cost to buy. The rest of the turkey curry awaits tonight's dinner.

I'm not sure how long we could survive without shopping in town. I have noticed an increase in the enthusiasm of locals to go fishing – so long as stocks last it's an easy source of food. What we need next is a couple of goats to keep the weeds at bay and to feed all our relatives in a year.

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