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Sunday, October 23, 2005


Barbecued cat

I was having lunch with a group of students and they were asking me which of the Isaan delicacies I had eaten. Most of the group turned their nose up at some of the dishes. They pointed out that it was people from the Sakhon Nakhon area who would eat dishes such as dog that most others would reject. One of the group was from that area. They asked if she had eaten rat. She simply shrugged her shoulders as if to say 'so what'.

I asked 'What about cat?' No, they all agreed—even the lady from Sakhon Nakhon—that was bad luck. So now I understand why I got such a strong reaction when I played a little game a couple of years back.

Ton and Tar are two young men who ran the Nom Chaang (Elephant Milk) Cafe. They adopted me as a surrogate father figure and I often spent my evenings in their cafe. On one side of the cafe was a restaurant and on the other was a barbecue chicken place. These establishments all had roofs but were open at the sides. Dogs, cats, toads and other animals would wander through as they wished. There was one cat that used to hang around quite a lot pestering customers and they would complain about it being a nuisance.

One night I said, 'I can get rid of the cat for you.' I picked it up and headed for the chicken barbecue. I held it over the barbecue and said 'Meaw yang' (barbecued cat).

'No,' they all called. 'You can't do that'.

'Why not? Isaan people eat dog. Why not cat?'

One waitress was quite distressed. 'Barp. Barp.' (Bad karma) she called.

Of course I was only joking and returned the cat unharmed. But she thought I was serious and I feel she was never quite sure about me after that.

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