Thai Country Parties
It is never cold in Thailand for a Westerner, no matter what Thais may tell you to the contrary, but it is cooler in the mountains and around Christmas time. Given this, and the fact that most Thais practically live in the garden anyway, it is not surprising that most Thai country parties are held outdoors.
Not ‘as a rule’ – always.
Country Thais cook outside, eat outide and generally spend all their time outside, only going in to shower and sleep and then only for the sake sof modesty and privacy and the fact that mosquitoes would eat you alive if you slept outdoors.
Thai country parties tend to start early, a bit like children’s parties in the West, maybe at noon on the weekends or five-thirty during the week. This is because farmers tend to get up early and go to bed at around 21:30.
At an ordinary birthday party, people will sit on the family table, which is normally quite large (ours was 2.5m x 2.8m). Children will sit on a mat on the floor nearby.
The hostess and a friend, daughter or maid, will have prepared something for the punctual guests, although Thais are not renowned for being on time. The cooking begins in earnest, when most people start arriving, which might be thirty minutes ‘late’.
All female friends will want to help prepare the dishes cooked after they arrive, so it is very easy to spot the hostess’ friends, because they will not be the ones sitting around talking!
There arenot usually any sweet courses at Thai country parties (except birthday cake) as a general rule, not even at children’s parties, so all the dishes will be curries of various heats and flavours made from fish, pork, chicken and vegetables like sweet corn, bean sprouts, flowers, beans, lentils, mushrooms and cooked unripe fruit.
Women co-operate on peeling and chopping, but one woman usually does the actual cooking of her signature dish alone. There is huge regional variation, but many people adapt recipes from other areas to suit local tastes for Thai country parties.
The said rule of thumb is that there will be at least one more dish than diners, but I have nevr counted to sene whether they adhere to that around us, there is always plenty of food and variety and that is good enough for me.
Some men also like to cook, and I think that all can,, but they usually do all the slaughtering, while women clean the fish. It is quite common to see people arrive at a party with a live cockerel but leave without it!
Non-Thai peopletend to think that rice is a stapl of a Thai diet, but it is not usually eaten in the evening, so it does not often become part of a Thai country party bill of fare. The exception is at a wedding where there may be hundreds of guests, but the rice will then be presented in a very exotic form of fried rice.
Rice tends to be eaten during daylight hours and as a sort of porridge at bedtime.
At a typical Thai country party, most people of both sexes will drink ‘Thai whisky’ or ‘lao deng’ (red spirit) or rarely ‘lao khao’ (white spirit, but not like in the West). Lao deng is considered superior.
Some women and very few men will drink beer, but the trend is swinging that way slowly as Thais become more prosperous.
Above all, Thai country parties are relaxed, friendly and very enjoyable.
by +Owen Jones