today we went to lunch at our favorite thai restaurant, rachawadee, which in thai means lilac. it used to be a breakfast diner. tucked away on an inconspicuous side street in mount vernon, it's a long skinny brick room with a heavy old wood door and checkered floors. a long stainless steel bar running the room's entire length is dotted with the quintessential diner pendant lights, nestled by eight red vinyl bar stools, almost always full. on the other side of the bar, an immaculate, efficient, bright sparkling clean kitchen is kept by several of the sweetest, hardest working thai ladies i have ever had the pleasure to meet. they make good, healthy, fresh food, busily chatting in lyrical words i can't understand. they tend daily to shrines for their ancestors and deceased loved ones, methodically refreshing tiny cups of fresh tea, food, water, and other little gifts. they always greet james with a sweet smile and a "same thing?". yes, he says, tom yum noodles, thankful for a familiar place, a comfortable place, where people put loving care into our food, not to mention every other aspect of their lives. in awe of the way things are done in this restaurant, perhaps a microcosmic version of thai culture and work ethic, i become a reverse racist, resenting the plainness and sterility of my own culture. it's easy to do in a sea of american mediocrity.
the blonde american man working behind the counter is obviously the husband of one of the thai ladies. he awkwardly takes orders and jokes about how his wife teases him for using chopsticks at all the wrong times. we don't use chopsticks for curry, she says to him. he tells of learning to use chopsticks as a college bachelor because he was too lazy to wash the silverware. just then an elderly woman next to me pipes in: "so you went to vietnam, found one that could cook,and brought her home?" she inquired with a gruff and unapologetic ignorance. "actually, i didn't have to go to thailand to meet my wife," he retorted, gracefully ignoring her racism with the sly smile of a man in love.. "but i did keep her here longer than she originally intended."