Mama’s Kitchen – Warts and All


If you have recently lost a penknife, letter opener, scissors or even your favourite plastic shopping bag then there is a very good chance I might know where it is.

Kebab and french friesSo there I was, staring down at kebab and french fries, absolutely Hank Marvin (starving). I grabbed some tomato sauce, salt, I love lots of salt on some of my foods and then went back to get my knife and fork from the kitchen.

‘Wilai I can’t find my knife. Your bloody mama has been at it again.’

Domestos the household cleaning bleach supplier ran an advertising campaign which featured the words Domestos – Millions of Germs Will Die, well the ones that didn’t I may have discovered their whereabouts. Mama’s Kitchen – Warts and All.

A fragmentation grenade is pretty deadly and I don’t know their cost but as sure as french fries are chips I’d like to roll a couple into mama’s kitchen and take what domestos left behind straight out. It all started about four and a half years ago.

Our village house kitchenOur village home was built and we had included in the plans a small but nonetheless fairly modern kitchen. There wasn’t an oven just a two ring gas cooking stove but nowadays there is a microwave, food blender, electric barbecue cooking plate, state of the art refrigerator and even a toasted sandwich maker. I wouldn’t expect mama to use them all but at least some. She rarely makes use of the kitchen at all.

I rise very early each morning and after the completion of our village home I would wake up and immediately go outside for a smoke and find Wonderful Wi’s mama bent over her cooking pot conjuring up another culinary surprise to deliver to the village Wat (temple).

What the hell went into that pot I don’t want to ever know but she certainly didn’t buy any of the main ingredients….she found them. The insects don’t crawl through our garden they run like crazy. The last snake I saw was wearing a lucky charm amulet and carrying a leather bound bible. The life of a village monk sure ain’t fun. Not at meal times anyhow.

A couple of years on and nothing had changed when young Wilai decided that the house needed a car port. I thought it a strange decision because we didn’t have a car. I think it was a mildly expensive way of letting me know that one day I would be buying one although Wi has since refused my offer to do so. Mama seized the moment and moved her kitchen into the car port. Within days I was told it resembled a junkyard. On my visit one month later the junkyard had downgraded to complete tip and I had a few quiet words with Wilai.

Car port and spare room

Moving the story on to last year and Wi once again got the builders in and as you can see in the above photo had another room built onto the side of the car port. This was mama’s very own kitchen. A great idea from Wilai. Mama refused to use it or very occasionally at most. The car port was where she wanted to be.

I’m not sure who loves who most but a couple of months back Wilai got the builders in again. They constructed a small, roofed outhouse with bamboo walls on the left of the car port which you can just make out in the above photo. Mama’s new kitchen. Amazingly she moved in. Rusty lock, old stock and battered barrel.

Mama's kitchenNow I don’t know how many gallons of domestos it would take to clean this kitchen but you’d need a high powered jet wash attached to complete the task. Even Lord Lucan would think twice about hiding in this place. The geckos that reside are outcasts and have bells around their necks. I honestly believe salmonella and escherichia coli would be eaten alive by far superior mutant strains.

In our modern kitchen mama uses the refrigerator, kettle, my cutlery and is often seen opening and shutting the cupboards in search of more freebies, but she never ever cooks. It really does confuse me as to why a lady in her late fifties who has juggled poverty for most of her life chooses to cook in a kitchen which has a thick film of grease rather than one that is relatively clean. It’s beyond me, way beyond.

Perhaps it’s the old ways that suit her best as change and modernization are frightening words to some people. Maybe it’s best this way because heaven knows what kind of state she would turn our kitchen into but I just wish she’d leave my bloody knives and forks alone. That’s mama for you.


© 2009 – 2011, Martyn. All rights reserved.

10 thoughts on “Mama’s Kitchen – Warts and All

  1. ‘The insects don’t crawl through our garden they run like crazy. The last snake I saw was wearing a lucky charm amulet and carrying a leather bound bible.’

    LOL! I laughed through your whole post. Hilarious.

    I might be wrong, but I believe the reason Mamma wanted the space she did is due to the type of cooking she does.

    Frying fish and cooking spicy food needs either a large area, or a room with lots of flow (like bamboos slats that let the breeze come in and out).

    That way, the fumes/grease/whatever are not concentrated into a little space. They all have somewhere to go.

    When I lived in a real house, there was a kitchen, then a wet kitchen for frying fish. The wet kitchen was off the regular kitchen with a tight door in between.

    Come to think of it, when I moved into that house in Borneo it was the same. I had to hire two maids to help me scrub grease off of every surface. And I mean every. Grease even coated the cupboard hinges with hair stuck on for texture. Gross. It took us two weeks to do the whole house but I don’t remember how long to do the kitchen.

    In that house (before I moved in), the maids did all the cooking as the owner’s didn’t know how. And (obviously) the owner’s didn’t know enough to tell the maids to cook greasy dishes outside.

    But really, it is the Asian habit of frying. Totally.

    Tons of grease is dumped into frying pans. And as they do not take measures to stop the grease from flying everywhere, it does tend to coat all surfaces.
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..iPhone Apps: Keep an Eye on Your iPhone Updates =-.

  2. Martyn: that kitchen looks just like my neighbors new kitchen , you should have seen the old one , and now the so called new one is almost as bad , they built a new home 10 years ago , nice and roomy , they still insisted as your mother-in -law to have the kitchen outside . The funniest part of my comment will be , that 5 years ago when we first got here to the LOS our, neighbor was always yelling out to Ciejay “KIN KAL” and of course being new and not wanting to offend any one, we ate there quite often and always at night for the evening meal , of course we ate outside to and with not much light I really could’nt make out all the surroundings to well I knew it was’nt on par with the way I wanted to eat and enjoy dinner , one day we were invited for lunch , I have never seen like the mess under and around the table we were eating on in my life and when she set the food on the table I saw ants and some other creepy crawlers all around the bowls and no one seemed to notice at all , well when we got home I said to Ciejay ” did you see that mess and all them ants and bugs ” she said to me “same same ” I said “what does that mean in the english launage ” she said ” it’s always like that ” I said all the time I’ve been eating there ” she said “yes , Thai’s never mind and as my Ma always said “no bones ” .
    Well you can guess it’s not my favorite place to eat anymore and I do it as little as possible and I told Ciejay next time she yells” KIN KAL” act like you don’t hear and if she sees you heard yell back “already done ” Malcolm
    .-= malcolm´s last blog ..BACK TO THE LAND OF THE LIVING =-.

  3. Catherine and Malcolm I have just woken up and must soon get ready for the nightshift so I will answer your wonderful comments in the morning. It’s rare I star vote on comments prefering to leave that to readers but I have given them both 5 out of 5, they both made my day. Thank you.

  4. Martyn,
    That kitchen looks oh so familiar. I can understand why Mama won’t use your new fangled kitchen though…she doesn’t know how to cook in it.

    I love to watch Pookie and her mother or Aunts cook…always lots going on for a long time then an explosion of food comes out.

    Mama’s kitchen in Mukdahan is an open air affair out behind the house. It’s amazing to watch her cooking as she shoo’s away chicken, ducks, the neighborhood dog and a few wayward lizards. All around the outside of the makeshift kitchen is all manner of broken pots, utensils and empty bottles.

    I was already missing the village greatly and this post just brought it home a little harder. Great read as always Martyn!
    .-= Talen´s last blog ..Hitler’s Not So Triumphant Return =-.

  5. LOL I always thought that star was the reader marking the post! Excellent! Now I know I’ve been giving my own comments 5 stars everytime…

    Glad to hear about your wonderful mother in law.. Who knows Hoo Don, maybe she will one day want to use your kitchen, to cook up some special meals for you with all the local fresh produce! How wonderful for you :P. and I definitely reckon the car port was a big hint in your direction haha!

  6. Hmmm I know I posted to this thread earlier…I must be losing my mind.

    Excellent post Martyn, it has made me teary eyed wishing I was back at the family home in Mukdahan.

    Mama’s kitchen there is very similar except they moved it outside into an open air kinda space. Mama is constantly shooing chickens, ducks, the dog and a few lizards out of her cooking area.
    .-= Talen´s last blog ..Hitler’s Not So Triumphant Return =-.

  7. Catherine reading your comment goes hand in hand with Wilai’s explanation that her mama doesn’t want to stink the house out with the smell of cooking. I don’t understand though why she didn’t use the second kitchen, it must be as you explained to left the smells drift away. I thought the builders had done a good job until I read your view and now I realise the bamboo slats are not varnished but heavily coated in grease. I really can’t understand why she doesn’t keep the kitchen a little tidier.

    Malcolm believe me you have got to turn your comment into a post. I thought your story was hilarious and I have been through a milder version of it myself. I do think that eating in these type of places that lack shall we say ‘standards’ does in fact make your stomach a lot more immune to western bugs as I rarely if ever suffer with those type of illnesses. Believe me Malcolm you really have got to write a post about your dinner dates and then hope no near neighbours get on the internet.

  8. Talen a mess does tend to look similar, it’s just arranged differently and the contents vary. I won’t ever forget the time I was staying at Wi’s mama’s stilted house and they were under it preparing food. It was at the height of the bird flu virus. They both disappeared upstairs and about six chickens leapt onto the table and started pecking at the food. They came back down and just shooed them away. I thought christ I’ve got to eat that later. Great memories and I know what you mean about missing the village life. Hang in there.

    Ben I wondered who was high scoring some of your comments and not voting on others. The post vote is under the Digg icon. I did offer to buy Wilai a motor but she said no wait for a few years time when hopefully we will have a small business. Kill two birds with one stone if you like. I will get round to commenting on your dog post tomorrow but I’m currently on nights and that leaves me with very little time to browse the net. Cheers.

  9. Martyn great post-just what I needed having returned from Samut Sakhon.

    The family there live in a swamp, have outdoor kitchens that ain’t going to pass a health inspectors keen eye BUT they cook great food and touch wood I have never been ill after eating it.

    Mind you I did see a dead monitor lizard this time!
    .-= Mike´s last blog ..Buddhist Funeral Rites and Ceremony-Introduction =-.

  10. Mike excuse me but I thought you were going to bury me on this one.

    Doesn’t swamp mean cobra’s and what the hell killed a monitor lizard. I should send the whole family in Samut Sakhon regular supplies of vitamins and hope you and your Canon are not needed for a few more years…..you and your Canon, that sounds like the prefect male equipment for Pattaya.

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