Thai cooking classes to benefit village school

LAKE LELAND — When she was growing up, Pen Wongchana would stand behind her father as he was cooking and say, “Fast, fast, fast, Daddy, I’m hungry.”

Now she is teaching other people how to cook traditional Thai food and feeding hungry children at the same time.

Pen, who is married to film producer Bob Rosen, lives in a lakefront home near Quilcene, but grew up in a small village in northeast Thailand near the Laotian border, the poorest part of the country.

An accomplished chef, she is offering a series of cooking classes on Thai cooking and donating part of the proceeds to the district school she attended as a child.

“After the tsunami, the government had no money for food,” she said. “My brother-in-law contacted us and said they need help at the school.”

As a child, Pen — short for Paewnirithra — lived in a one-room house without electricity, plumbing or running water.

Former monk

Her father, a former Buddhist monk who valued education, stayed home and raised the six children. Her mother worked in the rice fields, a reversal of the usual roles.

“My mother is a terrible cook, but my father is the best cook,” she said.

“He make everything taste good.”

She has also sampled food fit for a king.

With the help of her older sister, who went to work in a garment factory, Pen left her village to attend Ramkhamhana University in Bangkok.

There she lived in the home of the king’s doctor and his wife, a university professor. The couple often dined at the royal palace, and encouraged their cook, who was Pen’s cousin, to make dishes they had there.

Pen was treated like a daughter, but watched her cousin prepare food and sometimes helped with the prep work.

“I watch my father cook and I watch my cousin cook,” she said.

She received her diploma from a Thai princess — a difficult task to do while bowing with eyes lowered — and visited the palace compound, with its elephants and water buffalo.

“A TASTE OF THAILAND” cooking classes will be held Tuesdays at the Port Ludlow Bay Club, 120 Spinnaker Place.

Morning classes at 11:30 a.m. are on May 24, June 7 and 21, July 5 and 19 and Aug. 2. Evening classes at 5:30 p.m. are on May 31, June 14 and 28, July 12 and 26, and Aug. 9.

Each class is approximately two hours long and cost $55, including food and wine. Discounts for Bay Club members or multiple classes.

For reservations, call 360-301-3711.

Peninsula Daily News

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