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My Thai Food Family Ties

When I was a kid, my mom, Connie, worked as a computer analyst for the state of Michigan. It was a job that required about an hour-long commute each way, and, from the couple of times I participated in “Take Your Daughter to Work Day,” I gathered that she did a bunch of confusing computer programming stuff I didn’t understand in between fielding calls (and later, emails!) from coworkers, counting down the days to retirement on a paper clip chain, and spinning around in her wheelie chair.
Or maybe I was the one spinning around in her wheelie chair. Whatever.
What I’m trying to say is, as close as I’ve always been to my mother (and we’re definitely close), there was always this part of her life that was very separate from the part I knew. Even after visiting her office, I still had a hard time really picturing her there, working away day in and day out.
But I could picture her at lunch, at her favorite Lansing restaurant, Bangkok House. (Well, one of her favorites, anyway — anybody familiar with the Lansing and East Lansing area is probably familiar with the other top pick, El Azteco.)
Now, you need to understand that the town we lived in didn’t have a lot to offer in ethnic fare: We got a Taco Bell when I was in high school, and there were a couple of pizza places. I think there might’ve been a short-lived attempt at a Chinese restaurant at some point. So, Thai food? That was really, really exotic. And really, really cool.
The first time I went to Bangkok House with my mom, I was totally intimidated by the menu. She ordered me Pad Thai, mild, and I’m pretty sure she ordered curried chicken, hot. Maybe even Thai hot, like she does now.
I was about as far from being an adventurous eater as you can imagine, but there was something about sitting in that small, dimly lit restaurant, across from my mom, watching the Thai men in suits mop the sweat from their brows as they ate their triple-Thai hot dishes, that made me brave. I ate my first Pad Thai that day, and that restaurant was the site of a lot of new dishes for me.
These days, I rarely pass up an opportunity to try an interesting ethnic restaurant (assuming I can find something vegetarian or pescatarian, anyway), and I can’t imagine I’d be the daring diner I consider myself today if my mom hadn’t convinced me that trying Bangkok House would be far more fun than a sandwich from Subway. And I wonder if I would have the strong affinity for Thai (and spicy!) food that I now enjoy if I didn’t have those great memories of chowing down on Pad Thai with her.
Are there any particular restaurants or foods, ethnic or otherwise, that bring back special memories for you? How do your taste buds take you Around the World? —Kristen

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