The Reality of Rural Thailand

Mango drying in the midday sun in Issan

In this day and age we don’t tend to think much about how our food is prepared or preserved to last as long as it can. Unfortunately, even though we call it progress, technology has failed us in many ways when it comes to the foods we eat

Red ant larvae These preservatives may keep the foods we eat from spoiling faster and keep bacteria and fungal growth away but they also change the foods on a molecular level and the story is still out on how some of these preservatives can affect us.

Leaving small town America for rural Thailand will open your eyes in many ways but none more than how food is handled and preserved for future use. It’s almost like walking backwards through time and using reverse technology.

While I was at the family farm in Nakhon Phanom I witnessed daily the act of preparing food for future use. While the family does have a small refrigerator it isn’t relied upon to keep food as much as it is used to store water.

Meats drying on a side street in Nakhon PhanomAll this food preparation and preservation takes time but it is an every day part of life in Issan shared by the farmers and city dwellers alike. Walking through the city streets you will see many houses where they are preparing meat and fruits to dry in the hot Issan sun.

One day I watched Pookie’s Aunt gather mango’s for an hour and then she peeled, cut and seeded them before placing them in a mortar and pestle and mashing them for what seemed like another hour. She added small amounts of salt and sugar while mashing and then when done she spread the mashed mango on plates and left them out to dry in the midday sun. When dried it becomes similar to a fruit rollup that you can eat whenever you want and they supposedly last quite a while. The 2 plates pictured above are the result of a half a days work.

Dried fish at a small market in MukdahanHow have we as Westerners gotten so far away from the fundamentals of society. Everything has been scaled up with unnatural communities springing up around malls and entertainment districts. Because of this we had to figure a way out to feed millions of people cheaply and efficiently, although badly at the same time. We stopped living where the living was good and spread out in unnatural ways that can’t be sustained.

Rural Thailand is the perfect example that we should all be striving for. Small self contained communities working together to grow their own foods and prosper off the land. These Thai farmers could survive any disaster put to them much more easily than any community in America or Europe. Don’t believe that? Just look to the after effects Katrina had on New Orleans. We had the technology and the wherewithal to withstand anything and yet we failed.

If America and Europe don’t get back to these types of small self sufficient communities then we won’t have to worry about wars, natural disasters or energy deficiencies bringing us down because we will have already brought ourselves down with our need to live in suburbia closer to the McDonald’s, Starbuck’s and the Walmarts of the world.

Edit: Go Passport just left the link to a documentary called Food Inc. I think this should be required watching for every person living in Western society. The full movie can be found here: Food Inc

I decided to add the movie here as well because it really is that important for people to see.

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