Thai food is undoubtedly one of the great cuisines of the world: it has depth, range, subtly and strong themes to extract and mix with other cooking cultures.
A Proper Plate of Food
This said, what Thai cuisine doesn’t provide is what in England we describe as a ‘proper plate of food’, as in the picture below, which I will tell you was served at the Masons Arms in Koh Phangan just in case you too are after a ‘proper plate of food’ in Thailand.
The view that Thai cuisine fails to provide a ‘proper plate of food’, a term that I shall reduce to the acronym PPOF for the remainder of this discussion, is partly down to personal preference. My liking for chips, grilled tomatoes, boiled petit pois, large pieces of meat, no chilli, no fish sauce, is of course a cultural preference, and probably a genetic one as well. If you are English, particularly if you over 50, then this is the food of your childhood. It wasn’t until the 1990s in the UK that people really started eating all that foreign muck at home. We just aren’t used to it yet.
Differences in Lifestyle
However, there is also something more a bit deeper to this which explains why Thai Cuisine scores so low on the PPOF scale compared with European cuisines. Thai Cuisine is rooted in its culture and the way the people live in Thailand, and it is interesting to note that as more Thai people start to live Western lifestyles the more they have started to eat more Western food.
Plates To Share
The key thing to understand about Thai cuisine is that it is meant to be shared amongst a group of people, with dishes presented for diners to serve for themselves. Thai people will take as much or as little of each as they wish, or is polite. This a cultural thing, and the idea of a PPOF is a peculiar for Thai people. How, a Thai person might reasonably ask, can the person doing the serving up of a PPOF have any accurate idea of how much to serve someone. The Thai way, individual plates of food from which one serves oneself, is infinitely less wasteful than the Western PPOF. In Thailand an uneaten dish simply gets put in the fridge and brought out again for breakfast. With a PPOF the remains simply get thrown away at the end of a meal.
At Some Time In The Past Europe Was Probably The Same
Considering this logically, there must have been some time in the past in the Western world when we made the transition from eating in the Thai style, from communal dishes, to eating a PPOF. Most likely people in Western Europe stopped sharing things when we got richer and our family/community ties broke down. A proper plate of food is an expensive commodity and a reflection of a more decadent value system – or maybe people in the West just like to eat bland and fatty food as opposed to that foreign muck.