Around the Table

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.

© Patcha Kitchaicharoen - Image from the Around the Table photography project
i

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.

© Patcha Kitchaicharoen - Image from the Around the Table photography project
i

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."

© Patcha Kitchaicharoen - Image from the Around the Table photography project
i

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.

© Patcha Kitchaicharoen - Image from the Around the Table photography project
i

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.

© Patcha Kitchaicharoen - Image from the Around the Table photography project
i

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.

© Patcha Kitchaicharoen - Image from the Around the Table photography project
i

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.

© Patcha Kitchaicharoen - Image from the Around the Table photography project
i

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.

© Patcha Kitchaicharoen - Image from the Around the Table photography project
i

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.

© Patcha Kitchaicharoen - Image from the Around the Table photography project
i

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.

© Patcha Kitchaicharoen - Image from the Around the Table photography project
i

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.

© Patcha Kitchaicharoen - Image from the Around the Table photography project
i

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.

© Patcha Kitchaicharoen - Image from the Around the Table photography project
i

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.