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New Gizmos

One of the most important things to set up in a new home is the kitchen. A lot of expats in Chiang Mai, we’ve heard, eat out for the majority of their meals. Meals range from 25 bhat for very basic soup, rice, meat and veg plates, to 150-400 bhat for very nice sit down meals with table service. Lately the dollar has been equal to 33 bhat or so.

Yesterday, I ate breakfast at a stall in the nearby Night Bazaar for 25 bhat. Yummy pork and vegetable soup with rice and a tin mug of cold water: 25 bhat. Less than a dollar. In America it’s hard to understand how much of the world eats for 2 dollars a day. Here, that begins to make a little more sense. Back home, about the only restaurant you can eat at for a buck is McDonalds. But this post isn’t about world food prices–it’s supposed to be about setting up my new kitchen. Which is now almost “there.”

La and I went to CarreFour’s yesterday. Chiang Mai has five big box stores, a la WalMart/Target/Home Depot. CarreFour’s is one of them, and there we bought a case of Singha beer, a heat induction hot plate, a cleaver, a stock pot, and a dish strainer among other things. Previous to our move to Doi Ping La was living in a one room suite, a little less like an efficiency and a little more like a tiny hotel room. I had not realized how important it would be for her to have home cooked meals again now that we have a real kitchen.

Some things have taken some getting used to, though. Not having a full-sized stove/oven, for instance. We boil water in a hot bot, we cook on electric hot plates or an electric griddle. We do have a sink, but it does not have hot water. The water itself is okay for cleaning dishes and cooking–as long as it is boiled first–but not for drinking. I’m starting to wonder what my energy usage is looking like, now that I’m not using gas to cook and heat lots of hot water. It’s taken some creativity and we’ve had to learn some new cooking methods, but overall the transition has been smooth. If this way of cooking uses less energy, would American’s take it on, I wonder? I have found that the induction hot plate heats a gallon of water in, no joke, three minutes. I know this is much faster than heating water with gas.

Lower Carbon Footprint?

But I do miss gas. I’m thinking of getting a one range burner set up for the balcony, even though the hot plate is capable of cooking stir-fry. Or maybe a little hibachi like the street vendors use: a long rectangular box big enough to lay a bottle of wine in. I’ll snap a picture when I see one next to show you.

Cooking in this apartment is a little like cooking in a trailer, I’ve found. The true test will be on Thursday when we invite some of Laura’s colleagues over for spaghetti dinner. To make garlic bread, we’re going to buy a toaster oven. We’ve been pricing them at the different stores. We’re trying to find one large enough to cook a small lasagna in and for La to do some small batch baking; cookies and such.

Giving small gifts is an important part if interacting with Thais, she tells me. Her colleagues at school often bring her food and tiny presents. We would like to be able to reciprocate, but what do you give a Thai? Certainly not any of the souvenirs you’d find in the night markets. Our solution? American cuisine. Like lasagnas and cheese cakes and chocolate chip cookies. Oh reminds me, that toaster oven ought to be able to fit a tiny spring form.

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