Reeking of raw garlic in Thailand – Day 11 of 30 Days of Indie Travel – Feast

BootsnAll 30 Days of Indie Travel

Day 11 of 30 Days of Indie Travel Project, from BootsnAll

Photo by Jeremy Keith -

Prompt #11: FEAST

“For some of us, food isn’t just a part of our travels, it’s the reason why we travel. Whether you travel the globe to try new foods and use food to form a deeper connection with the culture or just eat to live, food plays a big part in the travel experience. Share a food-related story from your travels or describe your best meal.”

Reeking of raw garlic in Thailand

So much of travel is about smell. The malty scent of a freshly pulled pint in Britain. The fresh salt air by any decent stretch of coast on the planet. And, of course, India’s fragrant cooking—and just as fragrant open sewers. Think of any trip you’ve been on, and smell will comprise a significant part of it.

My olfactory memory still reeks of 20 cloves of raw garlic in Thailand. Chiang Mai, specifically. And, more specifically than that, my armpits.

In 2003, I took a 2-day cooking class at Chiang Mai’s Baan Thai Cookery School. We wandered open-air markets and selected ingredients for the day’s culinary cheferiness. We pounded mortars and pestles, grinding our own curry pastes. And we made crazily beautiful, pungent mixtures of Thai dishes.

I can’t even remember what exactly we made that had so much garlic in it. Perhaps it was a som tam, green papaya salad. What I do remember, is every pore of my body perfecting its impersonation of a cut clove of garlic held right under your nose. For hours. I’ve never smelled so horrible after eating food so good, but it was worth every moment of the stinking-rose-induced social aversion that followed.

What I remember even more is how fun the class was and how intricate Thai food is. I recall the ringing laughter shared by me and my classmates, as the labor of cooking opened up our conversation and our selves to one another. To this day, Chiang Mai remains one of my 3 favorite cities, and I know it’s because of the food.

Photo by Jeremy Keith -

I will forever be enamored with what I learned not just about Thai food, but about life. The real and metaphorical essence of Thai food is simple: when combined, rough, raw ingredients—fish sauce, garlic, chiles, and such—form pastes and sauces of a delicate whole that transcends its rough components. So too in life, in travel, we are all just rough, raw ingredients. But through the people we meet and stay close to, through the experiences we share, we can transcend our raw, rough origins, and be something more.

Dinner and philosophy; every now and again, they intersect. They leave another good lesson, too, and I’ve tried to remember it ever since:

It’s okay to use a little less garlic.

See all of Anthony St. Clair’s travel blog posts for 30 Days of Indie Travel »

See all 30 Days of Indie Travel blog posts »

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What is the 30 days of indie travel?

BootsnAll 30 Days of Indie TravelEvery day in November, the BootsnAll Travel Network is inviting bloggers from around the world to a daily blogging effort designed to reflect on how our travel experiences over the last year (or whenever) have shaped us and our view of the world. Bloggers can follow the prompts as strictly or loosely as we like, interpreting them in various ways and responding via text, photos or video posted on our own blogs. More information: Join the 30 Days of Indie Travel Project »

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