The Eating of Phở

The other day I was eating at Phở Vĩnh Ký and for some reason the experience was more profound than at other times, all the details standing out a little more than usual. It's quite an intense experience, the eating of phở. Below I try to conjure up the experience in words, most of which was penned in my brain while I was eating. Tổng mời...

The Eating of Phở
the beggar man asking change - I'm not a street person, this is only temporary
the door hidden between sliding bars
the cramped coziness of a family dive that offers several dishes but serves only one
the older brother with the see-thru shirt who sees through my stomach and knows what I want and puts a dish of rau on the table before I even open the menu
the little sister in the corner snatching bites of lunch between seating guests
the little mother shooting orders to the cook and smiles to the new-comers
phở tái nạm tô trung breaks the uneven silence and the waiter's away and back again before I can wipe clean my spoon and đũa of thousands of lickings and a handful of washings
the smell of fresh beef and red turning brown is smothered by the smell of too many herbs whose names aren't important as long as they're rau
vắt chanh, thêm ớt, now the rau leaf by leaf
and I bend to the bowl in the perfect position, elbows on the table supporting the back and bent to 45, wrists resting lightly on the layer of air above the lip, muỗng limp in the left hand and đũa posed in the right, head centered over the bowl at the precise distance to avoid the splashing and fogging of glasses
the first bite is the đũa catching thịt bánh rau all in one swoop, backed up by three spoonfuls of steaming nước lèo, burning tastebud and tongue and priming throat for the rest
the motions are effortless - catch, lift, suspend to cool, slurp, spoon, return to step one
an occassional breath while adding spice, thêm chanh thêm ớt thêm mắm thêm muối
then done.

the body deflates and the mind tries to hold on to too many tastes I did not taste but smelled as they went down
the chair creeks at familiar movements, back against back and lax feet now laying flat instead of tense on the ball
the sweet chè I slurp rinses my mouth of the essence of memories forgotten and futures remembered, but not my hands
the growing clock makes known the time
brother, sister, mother haven't stopped, only I
the floor, the walls, the silence
I leave my tip and return to life.

1 comment:

itzfockinyung said...

wow, that is a strange story about eating pho....

travel log
  • 02.13.08 - to the temple with Luan and his mom, good to be back
  • 02.14.08 - Mẫu's alive! and staying for the weekend
  • 02.15.08 - floor hockey and Thái food makes for some strange dreams
  • 02.17.08 - frisbee and swamp monster at the park: fun but I'm pooped!
  • 02.19.08 - just read Triết's response to my last post - game on!
  • 02.20.08 - raining and expected to continue through Sunday - thank goodness!
  • 02.21.08 - 3-hour nap is a bad idea right before bed
  • 02.23.08 - to the beach to watch kites, a baptism @ 5pm, and homemade bulgogi - what a day!
  • 02.25.08 - just gave myself a haircut - woo, cold head!
  • 02.26.08 - 75° and spring cleaning - couldn't feel better
  • 02.27.08 - fed the elders bún đậu tonight - think it's their first time
  • 03.01.08 - working on new background...
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  • 03.03.08 - fhe: "In his strength I can do all things" (Alma 26:12)
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  • 03.12.08 - conversion is sometimes a gradual process, so much so that we don't even notice
  • 03.14.08 - for some reason everything was a little harder today, looking forward for bed!
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release notes v1.0 - FINALLY DONE!
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    • travel log seems to be working, so I'll keep it
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  • 03.18.08 - v1.0 LAUNCH
    • installation and testing of time-sensitive background completed (for now)