Luxuries in life

I bought something luxurious today. I was feeling really happy. I got my camera lens back repaired ! It wasn’t cheap and the main reason I had been eating so cheaply recently because the repair was more than half the cost of a new lens, but cheaper is cheaper, so I opted for repair rather than replacement. Anyway, afterwards I went to Tescos. I had this idea I wanted to cook a big meal for everyone, like John the manager does, but something more western, that the foreigners might appreciate.

I wanted to do a lasagne, since that is my signature dish, but I realised to my horror that Kun John had no oven ! Only cooktops ! Different style of cooking here I guess. They don’t bake or roast so much. So I decided to go for a spaghetti bolognaise, even though I knew mince would be expensive. I found a really good 98 baht a kilo special on mince at Tescos but I looked at it and it didn’t look right. I asked a Thai woman “This pork or beef”. She says “Pork. I think maybe they have beef over there packaged up” and pointed. I went and looked, but they had none. She seemed concerned and wandered over and asked “Did you find it ?” and I shook my head. She said “I will ask for you” and turned to an employee and asked for beef mince in Thai.

She turned back to me and said “Beef is unavailable at the moment. Only pork or chicken sorry”. I thanked her, and decided to get a kilo and a half of pork mince anyway. Pork, Beef, who cares. Spaghetti is spaghetti, this would just be a uniquely Thai spaghetti. Bolognaise sauce was expensive. In fact, all the items in the “Western Pasta” aisle were very expensive, but I calculate that I still ended up making about 7 meals for under 400 baht, or around $12.

But what really made my bill expensive is there’s something I’ve wanted. I buy chicken and bologna sandwiches from the 7/11 all the time, and if you get the ultra-preserved ones off the shelf instead of in the fridge, they’re only 12 baht (30 cents), but I wanted real ham, and real cheese. Ham is available in Thailand readily, though quality ham is a luxury. I managed to find a half dozen slices of fairly decent leg ham for not an insane price, but the cheese was another story. I have described before in Vietnam how cheese is just unable to be found anywhere except the largest co-op stores, and it is very expensive and imported from Australia.

Well, surprise surprise, cheese is even harder to find here. You can get pretty much nothing but processed slices except at a big supermarket like Tescos or maybe Big C. And it is EXPENSIVE. I mean like you will shit your fucking pants in horror and wonder if it’s a typo, that’s how expensive it is.

They had two types of block cheese in Tescos, Bangkok. Bega, from Australia, or Mainland, from New Zealand. I chose the Mainland from NZ because they had a “vintage” variety and I do love dry crumbly cheese. You know what it cost ? $40 a kilogram. I am not joking. Some regular, plain old cheese, was $40 a kg. It only came in 250gram blocks because I doubt anyone would be insane enough to purchase it in larger quantities. So yes. I paid almost $10 AUD for a 250gram block of New Zealand cheese. Because I just needed it. I needed the taste of quality, southern hemisphere, cow’s milk cheese.

And it was good. I felt so wasteful. But I was on a high from finally getting my lens back, meaning I now had a fully functioning camera again with three lenses (my wide angle was broken beyond repair so I just threw that away) so I spent a few hundred baht on putting on dinner for everyone. Not just the guys, I even asked Sophia, the Burmese dance teacher if she would come down for some Italian cuisine and she dropped down and chatted briefly and thanked me for inviting her and ate a small bowl of spaghetti and said it was very delicious and I was a great cook, blah blah.

And other than ? OMG I’ve just been eating ham and cheese sandwiches all day, and it’s so good after the fake 7/11 sandwiches I’ve been buying. I don’t care how expensive each sandwich is, they are just … special because they’re something you can’t get easily here, at least not of good quality. There are no sandwich bars where you can walk in and go “Cut me a fresh ham and cheese sandwich please” and they’ll do it. This is a land of noodles and curries and bbq’d things on sticks. So I gave everyone a little taste of something different tonight with the spaghetti, and everyone was very impressed. Hamed barely finished his bowl before he was back in the kitchen helping himself to another huge bowl.

And I guess sometimes, even in Bangkok you just gotta have some good cheese, no matter how much it costs. It’s part of “enjoying every last sandwich”.

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