Around the Table - PhMuseum

Around the Table

Patcha Kitchaicharoen

2016 - 2017

Bangkok, Thailand; New York City, New York, United States

For me, the ritual of eating becomes more about the memories and experience

than the food itself. As a result, each time that I recall a specific food, a memory

is conjured of my family and the complexity of our relationship.

Around the Table is a series of stories and family portraits that use food as a

catalyst to uncover those buried memories.

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  • My dad loved to buy roast duck for me. He would always say,
    "This is Patcha's favorite dish. I bought it for her.”
    My mom and I would reply "Patcha doesn't like duck.”
    This happened for more than 20 years.
    Now, I just eat it and say nothing.

  • Our family loves Japanese food so much. Since I was a child,
    every time we would go out for dinner, Japanese food was always our first
    choice.
    One day, two years ago, I found the best sushi bar ever, so I invited my family to
    have dinner together.
    When we looked at the menu, my mom asked,
    "Do they have only sushi?”
    "Of course, mom. It's sushi bar! They don't sell anything else!!”
    "What's wrong?"
    "I don't like sushi."
    "No! I don't believe you. We have always eaten Japanese food. How can that be
    possible?”
    "I never said anything because of how happy you guys are at a Japanese
    restaurant. I want everybody to be happy."

  • For the past 10 years, my family has owned a limestone factory. My dad loves
    this factory very much and he considers it his everything. He has put so much
    time and effort into this business, that the only way he can relax is to drink.
    That has made my dad become an alcoholic. He has to drink everyday at the
    dinner table, and every time he drinks, he becomes very aggressive. The only
    thing he ever talks about is business, and how he really wants me and my sister
    to stop doing what we love and join him at the factory. He constantly complains
    about everything, even about the food on the table. Nobody in my family has
    ever been able to enjoy a meal at home.
    Even though I know he is trying to provide us with a stable future, I would rather
    us be poor if it means having a warmer family.

  • At my momʼs childhood house, there was a cook who took care of everybody.
    The only time that her dad entered the kitchen was to cook the only recipe he
    knew, which was boiled squid with soy sauce and sugar. That was my momʼs
    favorite dish.
    My grandfather died a long time ago, almost a decade ago now, and when we
    honor our ancestors on worship day, she still always cooks this recipe for him.

  • My dadʼs best friend was the one we called “Uncle Chut”.
    He was so close to my family that it felt like he was one of my real uncles.
    Years ago, he and my dad went out to play golf together and after they finished
    they went to a restaurant to eat something. They ordered hot and sour fish
    soup which always came in a special hot pot that uses methanol cooking fuel.
    After that meal was served, uncle Chut told my dad that the smell was too
    strong for him. My dad told him to try to change his seat to avoid the drafting
    smell. As uncle Chut was about to get up, he said he felt like he couldn't
    breathe and then suddenly he fell to the ground.
    His heart stopped beating in front of my dad.
    My dad spent all night at the hospital with uncle Chutʼs body. The doctor said
    that uncle Chut had heart disease but uncle Chut didnʼt realize it, and what
    triggered his heart attack was the methanol cooking fuel.
    My dad never ordered that soup again.

  • During his childhood, my dadʼs house was located in front of his primary
    school. At lunch time, all of his friends would get together with their aluminum
    lunch boxes to eat as a group. They spent their lunch break eating, and my dad
    was never included because he would have to go back and eat at home since
    his mom didnʼt have time to prepare a lunch box for him before school.
    My dad never got to enjoy lunch time playing with his friends.

  • I became extremely ill and weak at one point in my childhood, and the only way
    to treat me was to switch from liquid medicine to pill form. The doctor said the
    pills were more effective. So my parents tried everything they could to make me
    swallow the pill. They would put it in syrup or mix it with candy. But I just
    couldnʼt get it down.
    We tried all day until it got dark. By that point, I could barely stand.
    My dad started to get impatient with me, so he grabbed a hanger and started
    to hit me with it.
    He said, “Do you really want to die? Swallow the pill now!”.
    I cried a lot and it hurt so much, but finally I took the pill and my health
    improved immediately.

  • Have you ever tried to cook something by following the exact same recipe as
    before, and you still end up not making it taste anything remotely close to the
    original?
    There were nights when my dad would arrive home extremely late and there
    would be nothing left to eat so heʼd prepare instant noodles. Even though it was
    so basic, his recipe tasted amazing! I used to ask him to show me how he
    cooked it and then I would try to cook it myself but it never tasted the same.
    So every time he cooked instant noodles, he always called me down to come to
    eat regardless of how late it was. I feel like that was the only moment we
    werenʼt fighting each other.

  • My sister went to Canada one summer for 5 weeks. She spent her 17th birthday
    there. She was extremely lonely and homesick.
    She called home but there was no Skype or FaceTime at that time.
    All she could do was make an international phone call. My mom picked up her
    call and told her that everybody in our family came to celebrate her birthday.
    After she talked to everybody on the phone, she started to cry and she hung
    up.
    Her host came in to her room and brought a pizza for her as a special birthday
    dinner.

  • My grandmother told me that she and her family were extremely poor.
    Whenever she brought some food into the house, she had to divide it equally
    for her seven children. No one got more than the other. She told me that when I
    begin to have children of my own, I should love and raise them all equally.
    Nobody should feel that their mother loves one more than the other.

  • When I was just a one year old, my parents had to work all day, everyday. They
    didn't have time to take care of me at all, so they hired a nanny to take care of
    me instead. But they were the ones who prepared food for me.
    At the time, microwaves had just started being imported to Thailand, so they
    had the idea of preparing fresh foods such as vegetables and eggs, then mixing
    them and putting them into tupperware and freezing them in the fridge for a
    whole week. My nanny would then defrost them using the microwave.

  • Before I came to New York, my family went out to a restaurant for a last meal together.
    It was a disaster. We were talking about school and money stuff and
    then we started to argue. It ended with my dad crying. I have never felt that so
    much regret in my life.
    My mom said that my dad and I are too similar to get along. We are both
    stubborn and we never feel like itʼs our fault.
    To this day, I am still scarred by that dinner.


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