An in at the lit fest

Trip Start Dec 18, 2011
Trip End Feb 29, 2012

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Flag of Sri Lanka  ,
Monday, January 23, 2012

Sometimes it's a matter of being in the right place at the right time. Sometimes it’s a matter of knowing the right people. Sometimes it’s both.

As mentioned in my previous post, I was not able to get a ticket to the David Thompson cookery class and lunch because it was sold out. With but a spark of hope, I got up a bit early this morning to take a tuktuk into Galle so that I could stand outside the Thompson venue to see if anyone might have an extra ticket. I was to be at the literary festival later in the day anyway for a couple of lecture for which I did have tickets.

When I arrived at the venue, the only other person there was a distinguished but stressed gentleman talking on a mobile phone. At the end of his phone conversation, I struck up a conversation by asked if he was attending the Thompson event. "Actually," he quietly stated, “I’m the festival founder.”

We chatted a bit more about the festival and my enthusiasm for Thompson’s books and my feeble plan to see if I could get into the sold-out event. “We’ll get you in,” he said as he hustled off to take care of a last-minute glitch concerning equipment that had not yet arrived for the event.

Indeed, moments later, I paid for my ticket at the door (with U.S. dollars) and entered the villa where the event was to take place shortly. Thompson came out of the kitchen a couple of times to apologize the growing group of waiting cookery class students for the delay due to the missing equipment.

Eventually, we were ushered into an open shady courtyard with comfortable seats facing a long table laid with food and cooking equipment. I managed to find my seat front and center, only a couple of feet from the table.

To say that I learned a great deal about Thai cooking would be an understatement. Thompson is the acknowledged master of the art. The class focused on street food (my favorite style of dining in Thailand), based on his latest book, simply titled “Thai Street Food.” Thompson also has a Michelin-rated restaurant in London called Nahm and one by the same name in Bangkok.

Thompson commented at one point that his first book was written “a long time ago,” and he had moved on to “drop the preciousness” of the high-style, palace food described in that title. His interest now is in the food prepared by those ubiquitous vendors on the streets and in the shophouses of towns large and small throughout Thailand.

One of the highlights of the class for me was a taste of a palm sugar that was creamy and tasted of caramel.

The menu included a southern Thai curry, a hot and sour soup, a squid stir-fry (which he noted to me did not have any appreciable ink that adds the color Thais love) and a dessert of jackfruit and amarelle in sweet liquid. The curry was amazingly delicious. The soup was mouth-searingly hot.

In the afternoon, I attended the Richard Dawkins reading and Q&A session. Dawkins was thought-provoking but seemed to proselytize just as much for a scientific, non-religious view as a religious authority might proselytize for the opposite point of view.

A second afternoon lecture billed as a Dickens bicentennial event, which Nancy joined me for, was disappointing, focusing more on the Victorian age and the author’s own historical novels than on Dickens and was largely read from a prepared script.

Despite that, it was a wonderful day of books.
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sylvie on

Envy you the Thompson class. You MUST recreate it for me when you get back! I'll buy groceries and provide a well-equipped kitchen and we can have dinner for three (or more).

the_stamms on

Too bad about the Dawkins talk, but I guess it doesn't really surprise me when I think about it. I guess everyone needs to sell books...

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