Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

What I Ate Abroad in Thailand: The Time I was Served Snake for Breakfast

On homestay trips during my study abroad program in Thailand, I almost always woke up long after my host family did. In the small farming villages in northeast Thailand, everyone gets up before the sunrise. Everyone except the farangs (foreigners), that is.

This particular morning in early September, I came downstairs to the open-air first floor of the house as breakfast was being set on the table. I had told my family the night before that I was jey (vegetarian), but they had interpreted that in very broad terms. A plate of grilled things was staring back at me as I sat down at the breakfast table. I pointed to an item and asked my younger host sibling what it was.

Nguu,” she responded.

I knew enough Thai to understand what she had said. Snake. I was being fed grilled snake for breakfast.

Photo by Molly Johanson

The summer before going to Thailand, I had tried to eat as much Thai food as possible. Truthfully, I didn’t really like it, but I wanted to get a handle on what my food options would be for the next five months. All I knew was that everyone in the United States ate Pad Thai, which surely couldn’t be what is actually eaten in Thailand. The main reason that I wanted to go to Thailand for study abroad was not for the food, the weather or the tropical beaches. I primarily wanted to learn the Thai alphabet and be able to read and write Thai. My experiences of bright orange American Pad Thai only served to make me more apprehensive for the upcoming semester.

When I arrived in Thailand, everything was overwhelming, but I immediately took to the food. It was nothing like the Thai food I had eaten in Portland, which came as a relief. All of the main dishes were fried and all of the drinks were iced, and everything contained unique flavors I had never tried before, given the bland nature of my eating history –– tamarind, lime, coconut, mango, papaya and fish sauce! Realizing that real Thai food was nothing like it was in the United States was probably the best gift that I could have received in my state of culture shock. Even the Pad Thai (which is actually eaten everywhere in Thailand) was different, better and definitely not orange.

During the transitional weeks at the start of my study abroad program, we were given snack breaks constantly. I quickly started referring to Thailand not as the “land of smiles,” as it proudly proclaimed itself to be, but as the “land of kanoms (snacks).”

Homestays were the times when we were faced with the most adventurous foods because we had no choice but to eat what we were served. My vegetarian identity went out the window in order to accommodate and experience the interesting things I was served. Most often we ate the traditional foods of Isaan, the northeast part of Thailand where we were located.

However, on the morning I was faced with breakfast snake, I did not feel up to it. But thinking back to the stories I had heard about other homestays where breakfast was a bowl of fried crickets, I summoned up my resolve and reached for a bite of snake.

Photo by Molly Johanson

Guess what? It tasted like chicken.


View Comments (2)
More to Discover

Comments (2)

All Whitman Wire Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • S

    Steve-OJan 28, 2014 at 8:35 pm

    Snakes… reptiles… some relation to dinosaurs. Chicken… birds… some relation to dinosaurs. Dinosaurs probably tasted like snakes, and chicken.

    But we should try to stop eating animals.