Did you ever just want to know the answer to something so badly that you actually had visions of just dropping everything and going to find the answer? I have toyed with the idea of just canceling the TV service, the internet service, draining the pipes so that they won't freeze and burst in my house while I am gone in the winter, cleaning out the refrigerator and actually unplugging it, packing my must have items, and simply locking the door behind me, all so that I could find out the answer to one very small question:
Why do most of the people, that live along the Mekong River, eat with a fork, yet as the river breaks off into the tributaries called the Nine Dragons, people eat with chopsticks?
I wonder if the food is different in different areas and so dictates the utensil used. I wonder if the history of French colonial occupation in Vietnam had anything to do with it. I want to see, dish by dish, for myself, if they can be eaten with either set of utensils, or does the food change ingredients or consistency to alleviate any difficulty of using the chosen utensil. I just want to know.
I found out about this quirky little culinary tidbit in the cookbook, Hot Sour Salty Sweet (to find out more about the cookbook click on the link and go to the "In The Kitchen" section, it is a fantastic cookbook/travel journal). You must know that I have been to Asia twice, both times to adopt my daughters. I have spent only a total of a few months there, but that is enough to know I would love to go back. I spent time in Vietnam and also Thailand, both culinary dream places to live for an extended period of time.
I would like to take an extended trip down the Mekong River, a river that begins in the Tibetan Plateau and runs it's course through the Yunan Province in China, Burma, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. The name, Mekong, means Mother of Water. Once it reaches Vietnam, it starts dividing, first in two, then finally, as it slows to a crawl, it separates into nine different channels, hence the name, Nine Dragons.
There are companies that will cruise you down the Mekong in utter style. The colonial era M.S. La Marguerite, will do it, for a pretty penny, so that you can watch the villages go by as you sit watching the sunrise on your private balcony coddled in the fluffy bathrobe and slippers that are provided. In the evenings you can sip on exotic cocktails made with litchis or mangosteens in the Saigon lounge before dining on exquisite fare prepared delicately with the freshest of ingredients laced with the intoxicating flavors of galangal, lemongrass, and kafir lime.
I don't want to take just any trip, down a river, though. I want to raft the Mekong. I want to experience it as a snail's pace. I want to experience it, not from a deck in my bathrobe, or in heels and slinky dress with a martini glass in hand , but rather in a full sweat, with my shirt sticking to my back, in all it's uncomfortableness, with all of it's heavenly scents, and not so heavenly odorous surprises, eye to eye, shoulder to shoulder with the people of the Mekong. I want to come home, not just having seen the Mekong, but instead knowing the Mekong, on a visceral level, having had responded to the curiosity behind my question.
Paul Theroux, one of the "greats" in the travel writing world and an author whom I have read since I was a teenager, said it best when describing why choosing a luxurious mode of travel is not the way to go when you want to be on a voyage of discovery. He said, "... luxury, ... is the enemy of observation, a costly indulgence that induces such a good feeling that you notice nothing."
So there it is, one of my wishes, one of the things on my bucket list, if you will. I tried my best to put this wish in the form of a painting, on a postcard, for Elizabeth , of the blog Gossamer Wings. Elizabeth is one of the few people on this earth that I would tell to go ahead and pick a restaurant for me. That is not something I would offer up lightly as I have become quite the food snob. I thought, for her, I would make this postcard related to food and one of my deepest wishes. Do you ever have any deep wishes that would require such a complete overhaul of your life that it just remains in what seems will forever be permanent wish-mode? I would love to know.