Tall, Dark, and Mysterious

5/30/2005

Behold, the fruits of multiculturalism

File under: 1000 Words, What I Did On My Summer Vacation. Posted by Moebius Stripper at 9:02 am.

Yes, those are sweet basil potato chips. Ridged! And believe you me, you can taste the sweet basil.

And here’s where you, dear reader, (may) come in: note the opportunity (I think?) to win one million (I think) Thai Bhats. According to the currency converter, that’s equivalent to CA 31,062.06 or US 24,736.39, certainly nothing to sneeze at. The inside of the bag is silver foil, and contains no text at all, and hence, no text indicating whether or not I am one million Thai Bhats richer than I was before I purchased a bag of sweet basic potato chips. Is there a number or something to which I’m supposed to send the UPS code or whatnot? Are such instructions here on the back of the bag?

This bag of chips, by the way, is one of the many novelty items featured at Dok Bua, a Thai Restaurant in Brookline, MA, that proudly displays a restaurant review headlined “Where Thai Cuisine Meets Kitsch.” And it’s true! From the Christmas tree at the centre of the room to the “This way to New York” sign above the restroom door - it’s as though Dok Bua was decorated with the aim of distracting us from the food. Which is actually quite good. The food, that is. For what it’s worth, I lingered by the snack counter before choosing a flavour of chip: the options, besides sweet basil, included baked lobster, nori seaweed, Mexican barbecue, and sour cream and onion.

More on the subject of tension between decor and cuisine in Thai restaurants: I’m reminded of my introduction to Thai food, back in 2001, in Waterville, ME, of all places. Unless you’re either in some way affiliated with the summer camp where I’ve worked for the past five years or live in Waterville, ME, you’ve probably never been to Waterville, ME, because there’s no reason to visit Waterville, ME unless you grew up there. Many of the streets in Waterville, ME (pop: 10,000) are unlabelled, because there’s no reason to be navigating them unless your family’s lived there for the past six generations. Among the attractions in Waterville, ME: a post office; a grocery store or two; a few gas stations; a college; a Walmart; a K-Mart; a McDonald’s; a Pizza Hut; and restaurant called Pad Thai. In 2001, Pad Thai was located in a tiny shack by the highway that looked as though it would collapse under the force of a moderate wind. On its roof was a sign bearing a Pepsi ad and - in the types of letters used to spell out the names of movies outside a theatre - the restaurant’s name. My party and I entered with no small measure of trepidation; this place looked as though it would be Pad Thai that week, and Joe’s Burger Shack the next. At the very least, I expected French fries on the menu. But somehow, a talented Thai family had settled in the most immigrant-free town I’d ever set foot in, set up a restaurant, and it was good. Very good.

Three years later, my camp returned to Waterville, ME, and found that Pad Thai had added a second location. Waterville, ME, might have had room for only one McDonald’s, one Pizza Hut, and one K-Mart, but there was a market for two Pad Thais. The second, located on the lower level of a hotel, was decidedly more upscale: it had booths, and jukeboxes, and half of a pink - Ford? I think; I don’t know these things - protruding from the back wall. So, if you drop by Waterville, ME, and have a crving for Thai food, you have your choice of settings: shack, or 50’s diner. Though there’s always takeout, which might be necessary, as both of these unlikely spaces were routinely filled to capacity.

According to some of our campers, who were born and raised in Southeast Asia, Pad Thai’s food was as tasty and authentic as any they’d ever eaten. Only the decor was uniquely American. And if this type of adaptation is what it takes to fill an ethnic restaurant in Waterville, ME, then I’ll take it.

11 Comments

  1. These are in Brookline?

    I live in Cambridge. (Well, for the next five days. I’m moving.) This is not far away. I’m almost tempted to head over there and get me a bag of these.

    But alas, I am too lazy.

    - Isabel — 5/30/2005 @ 10:14 am

  2. Aw…they’re only $1/bag! In retrospect, I regret not having bought some other flavours.

    - Moebius Stripper — 5/30/2005 @ 12:41 pm

  3. *sniff*

    I remember that trip, and shack, quite well.

    In fact, I’ve been to all the Thai restaurants you mention in this entry, multiple times. That makes me proud.

    - Dan — 5/30/2005 @ 5:51 pm

  4. Aren’t there technically two colleges in Waterville, Colby and Thomas? As a Bowdoin grad (’00) I think I’m only supposed to acknowledge Colby (mules are sterile!), but I have a friend who works at Thomas which is why I’m a tiny bit familiar with its existence.

    - KimJ — 5/30/2005 @ 10:02 pm

  5. Oops, mea culpa. My camp (where Dan works too) took place at Colby, and we never head of any other college in Waterville.

    Dan and I both have soft spots in our hearts for the town, by the way. I’ve never met kinder, friendlier people than the ones I met in Waterville - certain islands notwithstanding.

    - Moebius Stripper — 5/30/2005 @ 10:08 pm

  6. I couldn’t believe there were actually 10000 people in Waterville, so I checked. Instead of it being 50% less, it was 50% more. And it turns out there are 161 asians in Waterville. Also, the friend of my mom who was here for my mom’s birthday has also been to Waterville, as has a person my mom was talking to on our way back from Raleigh, NC (she had lived in Waterville for 12 years, but was now flying from Raleigh to Calgary, through Toronto and then Ottawa). Small world, indeed.

    - Nicholas — 5/30/2005 @ 11:58 pm

  7. Hey, what about Railroad Square Cinema? That is a VERY good reason to visit Waterville. It’s the only good movie theatre in the Augusta area.

    - Daria — 6/3/2005 @ 8:28 am

  8. Basil sure beats the Korean peanut butter and shrimp chipsI saw last week. Too afraid to buy.

    - Two Dishes — 8/1/2005 @ 5:08 pm

  9. did you ever find out what this bag said? if so, do tell!

    - Polymath — 8/2/2005 @ 9:52 am

  10. No, never found out. Nor did I find out if I was eligible to win the million Thai Bhats. Pity, because I could really use that money right about now. (And, for that matter, right about always.)

    - Moebius Stripper — 8/3/2005 @ 4:08 pm

  11. Hey I am from Waterville area, I love Asian food, you should have mentioned Asian Cafe! They are in Winslow, across the bridge in Waterville and they are amazing! Thai food as well! I loev Pad Thai too. Shame about the decor though. Lol. And yes there def. are TWO colleges in Waterville. ^^

    - Katie — 9/4/2005 @ 3:01 pm

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