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On Disliking Thai Food

By Takeaway – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27428512

A bit more on this, even though it’s all nonsense…

I do not care for Thai food.

Let’s put this in context. The vast majority of Thai food I encounter is Americanized Thai, so I am obviously not making a claim about the cultural inheritance of the Thai people. I like several other cuisines in what we can broadly term “Southeast Asia,” and I like all of them better than Thai. I have been to fantastic Thai restaurants in culturally relevant cities, and I have had meals that are tolerable-to-mildly-enjoyable. So when I say “I do not care for Thai food,” what I mean is that at any given price point I will prefer almost any other cuisine or style of food to Thai. I generally won’t opt out if the group I’m with settles upon Thai, but I will literally never suggest that we “get some Thai,” or express a preference for Thai over just about any other imaginable dining option.

My reasons for disliking Thai aren’t particularly complicated; it’s something about the combination of flavors and textures that just sets off “wrong” bells in my brain. It’s not too spicy (I like spicy food), it’s not too flavorful… it’s just not for me. And that’s fine, because there are a great many other foods that are fine for me, and I eat more of them than a sensible person ought.

However (and I suspect this is the reaction Weingarten was trolling) when I try to explain this in calm, unemotional terms folks get ANGRY. I mean, viscerally angry, even though I have made no comment about the validity of their life choices or about the deep value of Thai culture. Invariably, someone proposes that I should find some hole-in-the-wall restaurant in New York or San Francisco or (god forbid) Bangkok so that I can come to grips with the True Essence of Thai and I’ll stop being all turned around on the subject, even though those experiences bear no meaningful relation to what people in even medium-sized American cities mean when they say “Oh hey let’s get some Thai!”

Obviously it’s an identity issue, but it’s one that I just fundamentally don’t understand. I’m not even evangelical about disliking Thai; I’ve never suggested that anyone is wrong or bad for enjoying Thai. And yet folks get aggressive even in interpersonal situations where there has been no effort at active trolling. Now of course what Weingarten is doing isn’t anything quite like this, because he’s making very critical and provocative statements that do carry a whiff of disdain not only for a culture but also for folks who enjoy a particular cuisine. His complaints also make no sense to anyone even vaguely familiar with Indian cuisine. But Weingarten’s trolling works in large part because people enjoy manifesting the Fury of the Righteous Indignation on aesthetic questions where the fury is utterly misplaced and (from the point of view of the troll) utterly hilarious.

Long story short, don’t feed the trolls. Don’t even feed them leftover Thai.

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