When I was growing up, I thought ethnic food was synonymous with French cuisine. I've since figured out why.
My father served in the Pacific in World War II. When the war was over, he was assigned to China for a year before coming home to civilian life. I have come to realize that during the war years he exceeded his lifetime quota of nights-sleeping-in-a-tent and dinners of Asian food.
By the time I was born, he never wanted to see pitched canvas or anything stir fried again. So I grew up having no clue about camping, and thinking that Western European food was exotic. I knew from frogs' legs and escargot, shallots and saute. But I had no idea that Moo Goo Gai Pan existed until I was old enough to vote.
My first meal was Szechuan Chinese, the hot stuff. I was astounded by the variety of flavors and textures. I still remember ordering "ants climbing trees" for the sheer adventure, to discover that it is cellophane noodles and shards of black mushroom in a spicy sauce.
Ever since then, one of my personal quality of life requirements has been Asian food.
We appreciate that Carson City's Asian restaurants include a variety of Chinese and Japanese cuisine. A relatively new addition is the Thai Spice Kitchen, located at the Roop Street entrance to the Silver City Mall, specializing in (no surprise) Thai food.
Thai food unites wildly different flavors that blend like orchestra music. Alone each ingredient is functional; together the result is harmonious and unexpected.
For example, the Tom Kha soup is spicy and broth-based, with cocoanut milk, lemon grass, and prawns or chicken. As unlikely a combination as this may seem, together it is at the top of the "cold night: hot soup" comfort food list at our house.
The menu has a variety of chicken, pork, beef, seafood and vegetable dishes. The eggplant stuffed with prawns and fish cake, and finished with a creamy curry sauce is a delicacy. They also prepare the more familiar Pad Thai noodles and have a spicy version, Pad Kee Mao, seasoned with fresh basil and tomatoes, to bring healthful variety to the popular noodle dish.
When Thai Spice Kitchen came to town, I marked off the "Thai food" box on my Carson City quality of life checklist.
But now, unfortunate trade-offs are looming. The Lowe's group is proposing to locate Eagle Hardware at the aging Silver City Mall, home of Thai Spice Kitchen. Most of the existing tenants will have to move.
My quality of life checklist and I are also looking forward to a centrally located, brightly- lit, well-organized competitively priced hardware store with ample parking. But I'm hoping that the advent of Eagle Hardware does not jeopardize Thai Spice Kitchen.
The restaurant has a loyal following but needs more fans. Hopefully, the owner will be able to relocate, with the help of the city, the displacing hardware store, and area business booster groups, to a Carson City location where even more people will become hooked on Thai.
Quality of life, like taste in food, is a matter of opinion. But the vitality of a community depends on variety as well as consistency. In this case, "variety is the spice of life" could be Thai Spice Kitchen's
Here's hoping that Thai Spice Kitchen can continue to provide spice to the life of Carson City.
Abby Johnson consults on rural community development, grant management and nuclear waste issues. She is married and has one middle school-age child.