You can watch a Mexican man make Japanese sushi in an Irish bar during Oktoberfest in my little American town. And that’s not because some creative restaurant proprietor was searching for a gimmick. It’s all a result of poor planning and making do with what’s available. My point here is that my town is the antithesis of a culinary Mecca, and if you’re looking for good food, you usually look elsewhere. That’s why I was so surprised the first time I ate at Boon’s Thai Restaurant downtown.
The owner is a white man that traveled to Thailand and married one of the locals. The two of them moved back to New Mexico and brought a good portion of her family with them, and then they opened up an authentic little Thai restaurant. They import most of their ingredients from San Francisco and make offerings to miniature deities in a cloud of incense smoke before opening each morning and closing every night. It’s an eatery that simply doesn’t belong among all the others in this town; it’s like a perfect dumpling among egg McMuffins.
I used to eat there constantly and tell all my friends about what a treasure the place was. I’d faithfully order take-out and bring guests from out of town to the place to prove that there was a morsel of foreign culture hidden in this otherwise myopic oilfield town. Their noodle dishes were some of my favorites and I always made sure to pass along my compliments as I walked past the kitchen on my way out but I never really paid attention to what I was seeing because I was always in a spice and carbohydrate induced coma.
One day I did look and I wish that I hadn’t because ignorance truly is bliss. Right there in the kitchen by their bank of rice cookers was an enormous fucking stack of Top Ramen noodle packets. What happened to all the authentic fair from California? What happened to the secret family recipe list that I had always assumed I was enjoying? All of my pompous ramblings about “true” cuisine were now null and void. I had believed that I knew my ass from a traditional noodle and I was wrong. I’d like to say that I never went back but It’d be a lie. I started to make justifications for their shortcut that were nothing more than little lies to which I subscribed. Does it really matter? I don’t order anything with noodles any more, but I eat at Boon’s all the time; it’s better than anything else in town and that’s almost as depressing as my Top Ramen delusions.