Tuesday, January 3, 2012

How to Feed 90 Thai Children on a Tight Budget

Shifty, but in a bad-ass sort of way.

Again, I apologize for the weird white hi-lighting. I thought I knew what caused it, but...

I was invited along on the monthly fresh market shopping trip yesterday morning. I’ve never seen so many vegetables in my life, nor quite so much raw meat sitting out. P’Jiap, P’Bry, P’Joy—three of the women who take care of the girls—did the shopping, and P’Bank (you don’t really pronounce the k and it sort of sounds like "bang!") sort acted as a bodyguard as far as I could tell. He was always about twenty steps behind and looking around shiftily.

P’Jiap is a skinny little Thai who showed us around and tested her knowledge of English names for vegetables and seafood. We could tell her what “shrimp” and “green beans” were, but I’m still mystified as to the identity of about 50% of the Thai produce we saw that day.

The market was a labyrinth of truck beds piled high with lettuce, potatoes, onions, more lettuce, chilies, cabbage, zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes, and even more lettuce. You wouldn’t believe how much lettuce you can pack into the back of a truck if you stack it right. You also wouldn’t believe the park job I saw performed by one of a million lettuce trucks. It took about 20 minutes and nearly every nearby Thai stopped selling and buying produce to watch and help guide the driver into place. When the task was complete, I applauded the group effort—quietly and as unobtrusively as a white girl in a Thai market can.

After pinballing between a million potato trucks (it took me ten minutes to realize that P’Jiap was systematically scouring the trucks she knew for a better price), we finally bought the potatoes P’Jiap was looking for.She was frustrated because apparently the going price of 200 baht—$6—for a 10 kg bag of potatoes is more expensive than usual.

The family we bought them from—the father was selling while the mother was peeling a persimmon for the little boy who was mawing on it as he hung onto his father’s neck—had to leave at 1 in the morning in order to reach the market on time. I got the impression that was common because we saw many a small child—and several adults—very asleep, perched on piled vegetables.

I will never complain about the sound of little girls scraping their plates clean at 6 a.m. again.

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