LOVE FOR BEGINNERS

Letters by Kenny Mah

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Som tum serenade

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Bangkok, Thailand
May 6, 2017


Hey you,


How you love you your som tum.

No matter how spicy this green papaya salad can be, no matter how much it makes you sweat and how it colours your lips the rosiest red and how you pant for more coconut water – more, quickly, please ! – I know you can’t resist another bite.

Then another, and another, till it’s all gone.

You have quite an appetite on you. But I’m one to talk; I’m quite the glutton too, as well you know. As you always remind me.

We never hear the pounding of the pestle – the “tum” in the salad’s name – the crushing of chillies and salt, garlic and sugar, peanuts and dried shrimp. We taste the “som” – the sour – yes, we do. The tang of the lime juice is unmistakable. The pungency of the nam pla, the fish sauce. The crunch of the raw, unripe papaya. The juiciness of the tomatoes.

It doesn’t take much for us to work up an appetite.

And I can’t help but wonder, that after all these years, how hungry I am for you still. How happy you make me. How content. You are my som tum, baby, and like you, I always have room for more.


Yours always and always,
Me.




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