Meatpaper is a wonderful publication out of San Francisco that explores the love and art of meat. So when they called for readers to submit essays on "The Worst Meat I Ever Ate" to be published in their fall 2010 issue (get it here), Rob Miller answered the call (after being nudged by JP to submit). For some reason, Meatpaper passed on Rob's essay, and JP was fired as Rob's literary agent. Whatever the case was for the rejection, here's the unpublished essay:
Or, why I became a temporary vegetarian in Thailand
By Rob Miller
Traveling by motorcycle in Issan, the remote and untouristed northeastern part of Thailand, my friend and I went to the only restaurant in Khong Chiam, a dusty, sleepy town on the Mekong River overlooking Laos. At the only other occupied table were three visibly potted middle-aged Thai men who enthusiastically gestured for us to join them. The gentlemen, the head schoolmaster, the mayor and the area’s government liaison, were red-eyed and reeling. "A feast is in order," one shouted. "It is an honor to entertain you," and they commanded the drowsy staff into action.
"Mai pen lai," —don’t worry—"we'll take care of it" and the dishes started coming, along with bottles of rice whiskey; noodle dishes, papaya salads, larb, fried rice, duck’s head soup (I was offered the honor of the eye—I passed), all served in the Issan style of pore-popping spiciness. Then an unidentifiable meat arrived that had the grainy, gritty texture of a 4th of July charcoal snake, with an aftertaste that no sauce could improve or hide.
"It's venison," the schoolmaster said, "from there," vaguely gesturing to the dark Lao side of the river. I'd grown up eating venison, I know venison, and, to paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen debating Dan Quayle, this was no venison. "Or chicken, maybe chicken, gai farang," he slurred. "Mai pen lai."
I choked down a few polite bites, with loads of rice, gulps of whiskey. On my way to the outhouse later, I passed the open-air kitchen and saw a bamboo pole stretched horizontally over a smudgy fire. From it, hanging by still furry tails, were several skinned housecats, their desiccated faces tight, as in pained smiles, the whiskers still visible.
"What are those?" I asked in Thai, fearing the answer. "Gai Farang!" the cook said cheerfully. Foreigner chicken.
I didn't eat meat for the rest of my stay.
[Meat photo by Procsilas]