I try to be as
open-minded as I can. Honestly. I know that there
are certainly some who don’t consider me the most
liberal and tolerant of individuals, but I do try.
But there are some things in life that I will
never understand. One thing that comes pretty high
up on that list is vegetarianism.
I just don’t get it. I can kind of understand
those who simply don’t like the taste of meat – it
can’t be that much different from the way I react
to the thought of eating durian. Does that make me
an eateverythingexceptdurian-ian? Probably.
Vegetarians certainly have some interesting
alternatives. I believe that nut cutlets are a
popular choice, although I’ve never tried one.
Tofu, on the other hand, has found its way onto my
plate on a number of occasions. “Try it,” my
veggie dining partner will always say. So I do.
My reaction is always the same – it’s nasty. It’s
supposed to take on the taste of the ingredients
and sauce around it. It probably does, but the
stuff itself will always be bean curd, in various
stages of solidity, with a gooey taste that’s
inevitably rather unpleasant in all of them.
I can rationalize that people who don’t like meat
choose not to eat it, but what I can’t understand
are the misguided individuals that actually like
the taste and smell of the stuff, but choose not
to, presumably because they like the idea of cows
being left to eat grass and moo in fields, rather
than being eaten.
I had a mate a few years ago who was a die-hard
veggie. He used to come to my particularly
carnivore-orientated barbecues, clutching his pack
of veggie sausages. We’d leave a bit of the grill
available for him, so that none of our nasty meat
juices would taint his animal product-free
I tasted one once. Only once. It had a taste
reminiscent of boiled cardboard. Absolutely bland
– if this cylinder of nothingness represents the
joys of vegetarianism, then I have to feel rather
sorry for them. I find that food tasting of
something – anything – significantly enhances the
experience of eating, personally. But that’s just
And what is it with the veggie tendency to imitate
meat? Why would they possibly want to do that?
Veggie sausages? Veggie burgers? Why bother? If
they hate the stuff so much, does it really make
sense that they’d want to eat food that was in any
way similar? I have a tip for any veggie
burger-lovers – if you really want a burger, nip
down to Don’s Mall and get the real thing.
Back to my barbecue guest. The daft thing about
the whole scenario was his reaction to the
sizzling meat fumes wafting through the air. “That
smells wonderful,” he’d always say. “I wish I
could eat that.” We could never figure out why he
tortured himself in that way, and stuck vehemently
to eating veggies.
There’s certainly nothing wrong with veggies, it
has to be said. Indeed, Phuket has a festival
named in honor of them. For me, thanks to a
childhood dinner table where plates had to be
cleared every meal, I’m actually rather partial to
greens to this day. Having said that, there are
some things that despite having on the green and
leafy tendencies that you wouldn’t touch with a
The Chinese Evergreen is one of them. The
technical name is aglaonema, but it’s better known
to Thais as the ba-saam-sii. There are around 20
different varieties of the plant, but probably the
most often-seen in these parts is the aglaonema
Aglaonema is a versatile, low-light, low-growing,
durable plant that will put up with some pretty
neglectful treatment. The foliage is either
silvery green with some dark green or the reverse,
mostly dark green with light green or creamy
streaks. They’re related to the dumb cane in that
they’re part of the araceae family, but they’re a
different genus; the main difference is that the
stems of the Chinese Evergreen are white in most
cultivars, rather than green.
The leaves are rather distinctive. They’re kind of
rubbery, about 30 centimeters long, and appear
singly on the end of short stems.
Whenever you see these things in garden centers
they’re always under that black, sunscreening
netting stuff. There’s a good reason for that –
although they enjoy Phuket’s tropical heat, they
aren’t exactly sun-worshipers, so you’ll need to
keep them in a shaded spot. Direct sunlight will
cause leaf scorching.
Aglaonema is also a perfect houseplant. Unlike
many of its tropical relatives that crave direct
light, this one will be quite happy indoors;
they’re tolerant plants that do well in a range of
environments. They prefer a bit of humidity if
possible, but they’ll adapt to a room with air
con, so they’ll do well in living rooms, bedrooms
and bathrooms. If the leaves start to develop
brown tips, move it out of the aircon – it’s
Aglaonema is native to the Philippines, parts of
tropical Asia and Africa. The scientific name is
derived from two Greek words: “aglaos” meaning
“bright”; and “nama”, a filament or thread
referring to the striking stamens produced within
the flowers. Apparently, it’s a popular plant with
the Chinese, to whom it symbolizes long life and
presumably explains the name Chinese Evergreen.
Don’t go mad with the water on this one. New
growth will be stunted and the stalks could rot if
the soil is kept too moist. If the soil is too
dry, the aglaonema’s lower leaves will turn yellow
and drop. I wish the water requirements of all
plants were this easy.
You might want to prune it a bit on occasion, too
– just remove discolored lower leaves. You can
also pull off the occasional greenish blooms
(unless you actually like them), but always remove
them when they die. The center new growth can be
pulled out to maintain the stalk’s compact growth,
if you like it that way.
These things are expensive in areas where they’re
not native. If you want to buy one of these as a
houseplant in the States, you’ll be looking at a
bill for $75 to $100 for something of a sensible
size. The same thing here shouldn’t cost much more
than 200 or 300 baht.
I haven’t seen my old barbecue guest for years – I
wonder if he’s finally realized that meat-eating
is the way to go. He can’t still be craving meat
and denying himself the pleasure. If he is, I just
hope he doesn’t get bored and give Chinese
evergreens a go. I can’t say I’ve given them a
try, but I’ll bet they’re even worse than tofu.
I’m off to McDonald’s.