Readers' Submissions

The Quest



I’m a simple fellow by nature, and it’s many of the simplest pleasures of life that keep me happy. The view from a mountain top on a cool sunny day, the smell of fresh bread just out of the oven…or an apple pie for that matter! Here in Thailand it’s easy to find so many small wonders in the course of day that make you smile, and perhaps take your mind off of the fact that the Thai version of Armageddon may be just around the corner. I for one am not in full “Ostrich mode”. The Sword of Damocles may be hanging over my head, but still, a guy’s gotta eat, if for no other reason than to keep one’s strength up. There’s nothing like the prospect of imminent civil insurrection to give you an appetite. Yes, am still taking the time to savor a morsel or two of what this bounteous land serves up. This has led me on a quest. Not for gold or glory, but for that tart succulent gift of the gods, the humble Pomelo, or som-oh as it is known in Thai.

To be honest I am an aficionado of any sour food including pickles, sauerkraut, kim-chee, and citrus fruit of all kinds. If it makes my mouth pucker than it’s all right with me. My mother-in law makes a dynamite scallion pickle that is all the rave back in her corner of Buriram. I myself have been known to make an enormous batch of “bread and butter pickles that in my humble opinion could win a blue ribbon at any country fair back in New England. I make lime ice cream that is definitely lime on steroids. Hmmm, perhaps a dash of salt and some Tequila would go over well on New Year’s Eve.

But anyway, back to my quest for the perfect pomelo. Pomelos, if you’ve never had the opportunity to enjoy one are in the grapefruit family. Grapefruits are pretty damned hard to find in Thailand. I honestly don’t know why they are not grown here since the climate is ideal for citrus trees. Pomelos however are found just about everywhere at this time of year. Finding a succulent tasty one though has not been easy for me this year. Virtually every one I’ve peeled has been as dry and tasteless as cardboard. It doesn’t matter where it has come from. I’ve been to countless markets. I’ve even had some freshly picked off the tree by some of my Thai friends. I keep expecting tart juicy ambrosia. I keep getting desiccated fiber suitable for insulating a drafty attic. I did find one acceptable pomelo, juicy, but lacking that sweet-tart tang which qualifies for “full marks”.

By this time you are probably thinking to yourselves, “Is this guy for real?” “He should be packing his suitcase and hustling his family overland to a functional airport and getting the hell out of there! Instead he is obsessing about fruit!” Oh well, doesn’t the condemned man get a last dinner request anymore? Actually folks, all is fine and dandy here in Lampang. I don’t expect rioting here in the streets anytime soon. People here are either a) too laid back to worry about that which they are powerless to control, or b) too damned apathetic to voice an opinion. In any case, it’s definitely “eat drink and be merry” time. Christmas is almost upon us. I’d better hustle off a letter to Santa. “Dear Santa, I know you are probably pretty busy getting ready for “the Big Day”, and there is nothing that I truly need, but if you and Rudolph just happen to be passing over Thailand, a basket of ripe pomelos would be much appreciated.” P.S. If you are flying over Bangkok’s airports, you might want to lose the red suit. Some PAD supporter might take umbrage with your fashion statement!

If I were living back in the States, this is the time of year when High School students knocking on doors taking orders for Florida citrus fruit. I am of course for any kid raising money for their school or charity. Girl Scouts selling cookies used to know this instinctively and make a beeline for my door. “We can definitely put this guy down for half a dozen boxes of Thin Mints and Samosas. The holiday season is also the time when everyone on any mail order list gets the inevitable Harry and David’s catalog in their mailbox. Along with L.L. Bean, these guys were one of the first mail order marketers. Their big claim was the Fruit of the Month Club. For an immodest amount of money Harry and David would send you a large carton of ripe fruit each and every month, including peaches, cherries, pineapples and even kiwi fruit. Much to my ex-wife’s astonishment I actually signed up for enough fruit to feed a small army. She might have thought I was an idiot, but I noticed that she had no problem eating the damned fruit! Not too many peddlers stop by, and when they do, they are usually hawking insurance or water purification systems or even (shudder) Amway products. There’s nary a fruit vendor to be seen when you want one. And so I expect I’ll be wandering the streets again waiting for someone to step out of the shadows and whisper, “Pssst…want some pomelos. Guaranteed sweet and succulent. First one’s free!”

Okay I know this a rather silly piece, but today with all the gathering storm clouds on the horizon I felt the need to cheer myself up. Hopefully you had at least one chuckle.


Stickman's thoughts:

I can relate to what you say. Getting quality fruit in Thailand is a bit of a lottery. If you ask the vendor in a market they almost always say that it is sweet, or juicy, or however it should be. The reality is sometimes different!