The look on my seven-year-old son’s face as he stands perched over a skillet full of bubbling hot oil, ready to drop in his noodles, is one of my favourites. The moment—frozen forever in time—marks a changing point in our family saga. From this moment on, there is absolutely no excuse for eating toast at the dinner table. We have Chef Nuttaluck Roswan to thank for that.
The kitchen here is impressive. Rows of copper pots and an open air 56 x 30-foot space designed in the traditional “Lanna” style could be daunting—especially when you’re walking in with a husband and two kids under the age of 10. But Chef doesn’t even flinch.
Instead, she spends the morning first telling, then showing, and then allowing us to try our hand at each recipe. Within a couple of hours, we’ve whipped up a batch of Khao Soi Kai, the area’s signature curried egg-noodle bowl. And once perfectly plated, we sit down to a warm-up, mid-morning snack to taste our handiwork.
Then it’s back to school to learn to make lunch, including Larb Muang Moo (Northern-style, spicy minced-pork salad), Abb Pla Yang (Northern-style grilled marinated red tilapia in banana leaf) and Som Tum (spicy green papaya salad). This was followed by the inevitable competition—Cameron, seven, and I vs. Ethan, nine, and Dad—in a cook-off where everyone wins.
Chef doesn’t know it, but the fun she is creating for us in the kitchen is what we’ve been looking for. It has been a few months since we have even attempted to make a meal together. Travelling for a year away from home has made it impossible. But even when we were home, sports nights and homework often led to a cook in the kitchen who was more concerned about putting something (anything!) on the plate than in the flavours and aromas of what she was preparing.
We can chop and chat, sauté and giggle to our heart’s content. The boys—the one who left his picky eating behind when we started on our trip and the one who can find a grilled cheese sandwich faster than anyone when handed a menu—are cooking real cuisine, and learning and eating, and savouring. When the lesson is over, no one wants to leave. A big part of that is the warm feeling we got working together in the kitchen. The fact that every single dish we made tasted so good (all praise to the teacher!) played a big role, too.
For the rest of our trip in Thailand, we held every meal up to the Four Seasons Chiang Mai cooking school standard. We’ve got another few months yet to come in this yearlong adventure. But getting home to throw on my apron, crack open my rice noodles and start the sizzling oil are high on my list of priorities when I do.
Read more on Chiang Mai in Four Seasons Magazine.
Based near Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Heather Greenwood Davis is a freelance writer whose articles appear in publications such as The Toronto Star, Canadian Family, UrbanMoms.ca and more. She recently returned from a one-year, round-the-world adventure with her husband and two sons, eight and 10. You can read about their journey and the adventures before and since at globetrottingmama.com.
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