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How A Romantic Rendezvous And A Salad Bowl Changed My Life

Updated: Nov 24, 2023

In 2017, I relocated to Thailand in order to pursue a graduate program in botany and plant science. After settling in, familiarizing myself with my temporary home, and exploring as much as possible, I made friends within my faculty and began going on dates, meeting men in the area.

It was during this time that my friend, Shoo, suggested setting me up on a blind date with her cousin. Although the concept of blind dates seemed outdated in this era of social media, I was craving some excitement to break the monotony of my everyday studies.

A few days later, we arranged to meet for lunch, and Shoo filled me in on the restaurant her cousin had chosen. All I needed to do was show up, identify myself at the restaurant, and I would be escorted to my table. I tried probing for more information about the restaurant, but Shoo could only tell me that it offered 'unusual experiences' (ประสบการณ์ที่ไม่ ธรรมดา).

I arrived on time and was promptly shown to my seat, eagerly awaiting the arrival of my blind date. As I sat at the table, the minutes ticked by and it became clear that my date was running late. I felt sorry for the server, who continuously asked if I wanted anything besides water. Despite repeatedly declining, after ten minutes had passed, I felt guilty and realized that my date was not going to show up. Consequently, I made the decision to order a salad from the menu.

After approximately eighty-five minutes, the reason for me being there on a date started to slip from my thoughts. Instead, my focus shifted to the growling hunger in my stomach, which seemed to resonate as if I hadn't eaten in a long time. It was a surprising level of eagerness, surpassing mere hunger and suggesting something deeper.

The chef approached me, holding a covered plate, and explained, "I've prepared a variety of surprises for you to uncover. Since your date was intended to be a blind experience, I decided to turn this plate into a playful treasure hunt." The plate felt peculiarly heavy, possessing a strange combination of lightness and density that was difficult to describe.

As the salad plate arrived, hidden under the cover – the irony of a "blind tasting of salad" on a night when my blind date had bailed on me was not lost on me. Nevertheless, my excitement for this unexpected twist remained unchanged.

With the blindfold gently fastened over my eyes, I found myself completely enveloped in darkness, creating a contrasting experience to the lively atmosphere of the restaurant. The playful challenge that lay before me brought a smile to my face, transforming what could have been a disappointing evening into a fascinating adventure.

As I took my first bite, the salad greens greeted my taste buds with their bitter and briny flavors, and the last mouthful seemed to encapsulate the taste of candied pecans. In a single bite, I could distinguish the flavors of spinach, romaine, and watercress. Moving on to the next mouthful, the arugula provided a peppery kick and complemented the natural sweetness of the red peppers.

During the third bite, my fork unexpectedly encountered what I initially mistook for a sour tomato, only to realize it was a certain oil - exploding with tanginess and accompanied by a hint of pungent feta. Just as I thought the gastronomic journey had concluded with gorgonzola, the presence of shaved parmesan revealed itself at the very end.

During this experience, my anticipation heightened with each turn as my taste buds danced with excitement. The absence of visual cues allowed my sense of smell to take over, enabling me to identify the rich balsamic scent in every bite. The earthy flavor of the blood turnip brought a tingling sensation, giving the impression that my tongue was transforming into a vibrant ruby red, intensifying my senses as the nutrients from each ingredient interacted with my body.

It felt like I was rediscovering the art of tasting, awakening my palate to the subtle distinctions of every element. I had never paid such attention to the creamy consistency of walnuts or the delightful harmony of blueberries and pears with the pungent feta. This usual combination took on an almost mystical quality that day. My recently transformed palate became hypersensitive, capturing even the slightest hints of bitterness from the radicchio and the fiery kick from each speck of black pepper, with exceptional precision.

Even the typically unnoticed oil presented itself in all its magnificence – every minute fat molecule of the familiar, peppery oil left a mark on my palate. It became evident that a certain oil (I could not make out what it wat) had been utilized, evident from the distinct peppery harshness that tantalized my throat.

As I savored this one-of-a-kind salad tasting experience, a slight concern crossed my mind that it might take a long time to finish the meal without being able to see. However, when the chef asked, "What else can you taste?" it encouraged me to continue my culinary adventure.

The playfulness of the frisée, the satisfactorily crisp pepita, the creamy smoothness of the alligator pear, and the unexpected encounter with the firm, nutty texture of the juicy pomegranate seed combined with the refreshing crunch of cuke, all coated generously a certain oil – these flavors seamlessly melded together in each mouthful.

At this point, I asked if I could remove the blindfold and the chef chuckled, confident that I had identified most of the ingredients, except for the scattered, crispy fried spicy chickpeas, which remained unexplored in this ocean of vegetables.

In that moment, as I savored the diverse textures and admired the array of colors on my plate, a deep sense of gratitude and connection to the chef's intentions washed over me. This culinary journey served as a powerful reminder that every bite has the potential to be transformative, every meal a canvas for creativity and forging connections. The various textures, tastes, temperatures, and emotions evoked by the thirteen ingredients on my plate resonated strongly with me.

As I indulged in the delicious feast, I noticed the chef observing me, seemingly intrigued by my enjoyment. Sheepishly, I acknowledged his presence and introduced myself, only to realize that he was actually my date. Stunned, I sat in silence for a moment, my eyes fixated on his gaze.

However, conversation soon began to flow effortlessly between us, and we quickly became inseparable. Love blossomed instantly, and now I find myself living in Thailand with the love of my life, jointly operating this remarkable place and anticipating the arrival of our fourth child. This profound experience has taught me to cherish every moment of my existence, whether it presents pain, joy, sadness, or bliss, as each one could potentially harbor another extraordinary adventure.


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