I've had MANY moments of this scene from, 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding," coming to mind. (Start the movie at min 55:00 for more context!) At the school, there is one teacher in specific, Sangka, who sorta feels like the Greek aunt that I never had, even though she's Cambodian. She is always offering me food and motioning me to, "eat, Eat, EAT."
I spent the last week with one class, which has been lovely in getting to know the routine of the class, the specifics of the kids, and really commit their names to memory! Thearak, the male teacher in the room, is this lovely, sassy, loud (everyone is kinda loud to be fair!) Cambodian man. At lunch I've learned how to tell the children to eat rice, "Yum bia." And now, imagine that same sort of Greek-aunty-energy coming thru Thearak as he shouts at me in his high pitched voice, "Sooschi, YUM BIA!" It's pretty funny, but it also makes me sit down and eat rice! This man demands respect and I'm not about to cross him! :)
A few snap shots from the local markets!
Coming into this trip, I knew I was going to intentionally stretch my food boundaries. I wanted to be respectful of food/gifts offered to me and try things for the sake of trying. I perhaps underestimated just how much they would be stretched and tested. All the food I will list, I have tried because it was offered and also enjoyed by a Cambodian friend. I'm not seeking these food experiences out, they are coming to me!
Let the list begin:
***Also, let's have the collective context that I've been a Vegetarian for over 25 years!***
Some sort of ribs
Lots of fish, grilled, in soups, etc
Fried grasshoppers (or something like it)
Fried frogs, see photo
Very large frogs stuffed with lemongrass, ginger and peanuts
Fish "hotdog." That is the best translation I've been able to get
Prawns. Had to have a lesson on how to even approach this one
Tiny clam things that they cook and season so they are spicy
Beef belly dipped in a ginger/turmeric sauce
It's a little nauseating reading this list. And, surprisingly, most everything (prawns being the exception) has been okay. I don't expect a transition to being a meat-eater from these experiences, but I'm pretty proud of myself for trying all these things.
For lunch, I have the option to have it made for me to-go at my guest house and have intentionally chosen to not. I've been eating what the children and teachers eat and with them. We ALL know how deeply connective food is and the "ceremony" of eating together. Teachers everyday are asking me if I like what I've tried and are constantly offering me things to try. I can tell that it brings them SO much joy to share this part of their culture with me.
Another very common thing I've noted is that the teachers will offer me, or straight up serve me, the best or biggest piece of meat. Meat, here in Cambodia, is available, it's around, but it is expensive and there is not much at the school. The students primarily eat rice with broth and some veggies and perhaps a tablespoon size of meat. Kids are always trying to snatch meat from each other. It's a prized commodity. I've been happy to partake in this aspect of their beautiful culture and have been truly grateful for what has been offered to me.
Yeah, this is the fried frog.
Crunchy. Ate the whole thing. When in Cambodia, do as the Cambodians do.
The following items, I have NOT tried, but I wanted to share some sweet finds at the local grocery store.
I just finished my coconut cappuccino from my fave café, Noir. Now back to the guesthouse to grab my running shoes and off to the gym! Be looking forward to a blog post on getting my exercise on in Phnom Penh! So many great things and lots of very hysterical, "I'm American and white" moments.