(Thanks to angry asian man for the reminder, & for this image.)
Thai Temple feels so quintessentially Berkeley to me, in all the best ways: a cheerful jumble of everybody—Thai grannies & monks, Black kids from the neighborhood, Asian American Cal students, white hippies, foodies of all stripes, tots poking around in the vegetable garden—all of us together on a Sunday morning, grooving on yummy food at bargain prices. Yes, it’s a Buddhist thing, but really the true religion of the crowds is the food.
The food! Green papaya salad, mixed & pounded to order before your very eyes. Sticky rice & mango, with sprinkle-your-own toasted mung beans. Giant bowls of noodles. The long, long veggie line & the long, long meat line stretching side by side through the alley all the way to the sidewalk (best way to catch up with a friend, work up an appetite, & people-watch like crazy, all at once). Tender little coconut milk half moons paired face to face—I can never remember their name but they are heaven in your mouth.
I love to take a brisk walk down there on a summer morning while the fog is burning off. By the time we are all full & dawdling our way home past the rose-fragrant gardens of south Berkeley, our sweaters are tied around our waists, the sun makes our hair hot to the touch, & the afternoon stretches out luxuriously before us….
Please don’t let a few cranky neighbors take this away!