Hello World!

Hello, world! And welcome to my first posting. Here I am in Chiang Mai, that ancient Lanna city of lore, one of the most “renowned” tourist destinations in Asia. But today, it’s nothin’ but hot and ugly, already 90 degrees in the shade. The other day, my flip-flops melted in the sun. It’s that sweltering time of year when forests catch fire and farmers burn their fields. This is our third hot season here in a row – you’d think we’d be smart enough to leave, but we’re not.

Our fifth-floor condo has a big wrap-around porch with views of Doi Suthep Mountain a mile away. We can’t see it today. (And we can’t hear a thing over the shrill whistles of a hundred cicadas.) The smoky air swaddles everything in white. Tonight, the sun will set in a surreal tint of red and the air will turn orange like Mars.

It’s too hot to eat.

What instead?

Passionfruit. If you’ve ever tasted this tart little exquisite fruit — it makes your heart race and your mouth pucker — you’ll know there’s no better name for it. When it’s not in season, we buy all-natural Thai passionfruit juice in 750 ml cartons for the equivalent of $1.15. Pour it into a popsicle tray and a few hours later, voila! The only appropriate end to a hazy day.

But I’m in luck. The fruit is back in season, and Queen Sirikit’s store has bins full of it, packaged into one-kilogram bags for 30 baht (75 cents) each.

Now, I love passionfruit but I’ve always struggled with extracting the juice from all those little seeds. Slice a fruit in half and you’ll discover oodles of little black seeds encased in a slimy, stringy yellow goop. That’s it. That’s the exotic pith that makes passionfruit what it is. Well, I’ve learned a new trick: Place a metal colander over a pot. Slice each fruit in half, spoon the guts into the colander and slowly pour just-boiled water over the top. This miraculously loosens the slime from the seeds, and the pungent juice will run into the pot.

We drink our passionfruit over ice and Myers’s rum (which we picked up in a Singapore duty-free shop earlier this month), and a sprig of mint from the pot on the porch. I sip my drink (Jerry gulps his) out on the back patio as the bats make their evening loop across the sky. And suddenly, Chiang Mai isn’t quite so bad.


Tangy Fruits Tangy Drinks

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