One of the things I have often said about what is now our annual visit to Thailand is that it is all about relaxation. The only big decision we have to make is where to eat dinner each evening. Actually, that is not technically true. We spend so much of our time there visiting with friends, always including a meal, that we don’t often even have to think about where to eat.

That seemed to be the case even more so during this trip. Most of the days we had both lunch and dinner with friends, but different ones for most of the meals. We started right out with the dinner the first evening with Tom and Dennis. Tom is a retired former work colleague from Thai International, and Dennis is with Singapore Airlines. It was a treat, not only just to see them both but also because we don’t get to see Dennis on every visit to Thailand.

That was the beginning of “feed the camera.” We met up with them again when we went to the beach for three days, and every time we sat down to eat a meal, when the food arrived, Dennis would say “Hold up! We have to feed the camera first!” Dennis is what I might call a fanatic about recording everything for history, maybe especially food. And, as soon as he has taken the photos, he posts them online! It’s also a fun topic for face-to-face conversation.

Friend Tuy and Spouse Roger celebrate their birthdays one day apart, so our first week in Bangkok we met up at a Spanish restaurant on the 54th floor of a downtown building. There were six of us, and the food was served tapas style, which meant many, many dishes, each served on small plates, with about one bite for each person at the table. Among the specialties were, of course, paella, along with a special cut of roast pork, supposedly the best part of the hog, and roast baby suckling pig, said to be only 14 days old. Each time a waiter served the suckling to a table, he carved it right there, then broke the plate on the floor, a Spanish tradition. There were a lot of broken plates that night, because the restaurant was packed! Dessert was a western-style, multiple-layer chocolate birthday cake complete with candles, and the entire wait staff gathered around to sing happy birthday.

We lunched several times with friends and groups of friends from work. We had meals with some friends many times. Most days, we had both lunch and dinner engagements; other days, it was one or the other. Spouse Roger often complained about eating too much, and I had to remind him of the cultural difference in eating expectations. We were always asked what kind of food we wanted for that meal, and we usually said we liked to eat Thai food when in Thailand. It is always served family-style, and I guess through habit, they always order what we consider too many dishes. It is almost like eating at a buffet: it seems to require tasting each of the dishes.

Many cultures in which I have worked have a similar expectation much different than us. We, U.S. Americans of a certain age, were conditioned into the Clean Plate Club, having heard over and over as children: “Clean up your plate! Think of the starving children in ________” (insert whatever country was the neediest at the time; for me, it was China). However, in Thai culture, if your plate is empty, it means you have not had enough food and so you are helped, or at least strongly encouraged, to eat more. I told Roger to just always leave some food on his plate. “But that is wasteful,” is what we both really think. We are creatures of our early conditioning, after all, and it is really hard to shake.

With one of my two Thai “sons,” John and his spouse, Noi, and son Jack, we ate one lunch at an incredible restaurant situated in its own park-like setting. Our “dining room” was a private glass-enclosed room in the middle of trees, quite elegant. With the other “son,” Ike, and his spouse, Tuk, we ate lunch at a Thai restaurant in a relatively new shopping mall, which appears to be about the size of the Mall of America. (Their daughter, Emma, is now 10 and too busy with her own life to join us!) We also had dinners with each of them on two different nights. We were so busy with friends and “family” that we had no time to go out of Bangkok except for that one three-day trip to the beach.

I am not much of a picture-taker, but I did, if I remembered, start following Dennis’ advice to “feed the camera first,” so I have just a few photos of food and other events. We just wish the camera, when we feed it first, would eat more so we wouldn’t feel as if we should clean the plates!