Monday, December 8, 2008

Thanksgiving dinner in Laos

Luang Prabang morning market ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

Instead of roast turkey, sage stuffing, corn on the cob and pumpkin pie the local offerings this November for a home-cooked Thanksgiving dinner at the morning market in Luang Prabang, Laos were bat, bamboo rat, mouse deer, grasshopper (crunchy but a slightly unpleasant undertone of tobacco juice), flying squirrel, wasp larvae, exotic birds and Mekong catfish. Not that I pooh-pooh local delicacies that for some are the very height of gourmet dining but on a special day you just kind of want to eat the traditional food that your mum served you as a child. For some Laotian I suppose that is a juicy bamboo rat but I just couldn't quite conjure up an image of turkey feathers on the fat rat so I gave it a skip. No warbled thank-you was to be had from the rat who only hissed at me through very unattractive front chompers. (Bamboo rats look like grossly fat rodents without the long tails but with hideous rabbit-like buckteeth). What sealed my vegetarian fate that day was a little bat who stared forlornly at me from a large platter of his fellow mammals, all trussed up by their feet. He, unlike them, had not yet succumbed to his fate, his liquid black eyes unblinking. I heard later that a special northern Laotian treat is bat stuffed in bamboo tubes then left for several days to ferment....

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