Cooking School on Christmas Day :)
Christmas had at last arrived in south-east Asia and the morning began with present exchanges. We had made several visits to the Luang Prabang night market and on two occassions had gone our separate ways to buy one another gifts. We lay in bed wearing our santa hats to emphasize the fact that xmas does come to Buddhist Laos. Fay received a small key ring like tribal doll, Lao green tea in small designed pouches, a pair of slippers with an elephant on it (Laos is the land of a million elephants), a sketch of a tribal lady with her baby, a small book to write up her poems in and a large hand-made flower pressed book for her food recipes. I received a slingshot, bag badges, a small buffalo's head carved from green stone, pair of shorts and trousers, we bought each other the same slippers and a painting of buddhist monks. So all in all I think we did pretty well for each other.
We headed to a French bakery for a ham and cheese croissant, yum yum, and then made our way to our day cooking school that we paid for using xmas money from family. We decided on this as a cultural alternative to having a turkey roast that, to be honest, probably would have been a let down, plus this way we got to eat 6 dishes and come away knowing how to cook some amazing Laos food.
We arrived and were not suprised to find we were the youngest pair, the other 9 people ranged between 30 and 65, we were introduced to our two chefs and taken to the local market to buy all the days ingredients, so we could see what we would be using as well as learning about other Laos food and spices. We returned back to the cooking school and were shown the first dish, a Laos salad. It was as we were beginning to cook that Fay began to feel extremely unwell. She had woken feeling a little dodgy in the morning but thought nothing of it, now that little feeling in the pit of her stomach from this morning had greatly intensified. Suggesting that she take a few minutes to get some fresh air hoping she would start to feel better I attempted the salad solo. Now, it wasn't just a salad as it had meat involved and we had to make our own mayonnaise sauce from scratch, so doing the chopping and cooking solo was an exhausting task. My hands were shaking, I was losing control and falling behind as the group gradually completed the first dish. Poor Fay however had actually gone to the toilet and thrown up, the aromas and cooking steam doesn't do well for someone as ill as Fay. So, during our 15mins to eat our salad we came to the unfortunate conclusion that Fay was too unwell to continue and was best for her to go back to our guesthouse around the corner to sleep it off and try and come back later.
I stayed to cook the remaining 5 dishes and knew that if Fay didnt make it I would be able to put a bit of each dish aside and take it home for her. My partner for the rest of the day was a 60 something year old lady from New Zealand who was now living and teaching full time in Bangkok, thank goodness because even as a pair the dishes were still fast paced and hard work.
The food was exquisite and I was impressed with what I'd managed to achieve, even the presentation was quite posh :) We learnt how to make the famous Asian sticky rice and Luang Prabang's amazing chilli sauce, I cannot wait to make some when I get home, Fay is eager to find out what I learnt from the day and be taught to cook the dishes.
Even though Fay did fall ill and couldnt take part in the cooking class it was certainly a memorable christmas in 2010 for both of us and we enjoyed the days around christmas day enough to make christmas day feel like just another day of the week :)