Samui Wining & Dining
Going Nuts with Food

Forget about just eating it – you can use food for lots of other things too!


10Sometimes I put my foot in it. Sometimes I just can’t help having a great idea that falls flat on its face. Like this story, for instance. On these pages in the past, we’ve covered tales of lots of strange foods – in Asia that’s not so hard to do! But what about a different angle? What about a story on using food for really odd things. Such as . . . polishing your patio with pizza? Well, maybe not. That’s just the first thing that came to mind. But you get the drift. Excellent idea, what!

      Wrong. I’ve got a couple of things in the pot, mind you (nothing to do with pizza), but they’re hardly enough for a whole story, not even with really big pictures. Like, for instance, using orange peel to stop your cigarettes from going dry. Yes, I know, healthy lifestyles and all of that. But you’d be surprised at just how many folks are pleased to find they can smoke freely over here. And, despite the humidity, everything dries out pretty fast. Slip a slice or two inside the packet to keep everything moist (and your cigs even taste slightly tropical, too.)

      And another one. Did you know that pure soya bean oil is actually a varnish? Yes, the same stuff you cook your food with! A varnish is defined as any substance that, when dry, becomes insoluble and, if used on wood, seals the surface. There are three well-known natural varnishes. Outside of the furniture trade, probably the best known of these is raw linseed oil. But the prime candidate here is the exotic and expensive tung oil (aka ‘Chinese oil’), which really does bring out the rich colour and texture of the grain. And then there’s the stuff that’s on every supermarket shelf - soya oil. And it really works well, particularly when buffed with bee’s wax afterwards. Bet you didn’t know that – good, eh? And now for the rest. . . .

      Hmmm. Did you realise that the internet is completely dominated by American offerings? And this is where my good story idea starts to wobble. An hour with Google, and all I can discover is that housewives have a lot of time on their hands nowadays. They’ve all stopped slogging and turned to blogging. (All those new-fangled labour-saving devices, I expect.) And I can find thousands of enthusiastic tips about how to stop doors squeaking by using butter on the hinges, how to use mayonnaise for removing stains on wood (okay – forget about the pizza), and that lemon juice cleans everything made of metal.

      I wonder just how many huge pictures I can persuade my editor to pad this out with . . . on the other hand, I confess that I did find out something useful - peanut butter. (It didn’t say, but I presume not the crunchy kind?) I’m told that it works just as efficiently as jeweller’s rouge. Coat it thinly onto whatever you want to polish. Let it dry. Buff it off. Result? Instant gleaming shine. Thank you housewives everywhere. (I must get a jar for my workshop.) And thanks to you also for pointing out that Tabasco sauce relieves toothache, too. I wonder if I can reciprocally dribble oil of cloves onto my nachos . . .

      And, on a tropical theme, there’s breadfruit. Come to think of it, jackfruit, too. These look something like the durian; huge and spiky, but without the smell. Thus, you may be tempted to try one out, just for the hell of it. Whereupon your knife will almost immediately come to a halt, gummed up and stuck solid, due to the very sticky latex in the outer skin. However, back to natural oil again. If you coat your knife, hands, and anything else that might touch the gummy sap, with olive oil first, then it won’t happen. This fruit is used a lot in Thailand – well at least the tree is! The sawdust and wood-chips produce a deep, saffron-coloured dye and this is what Buddhist monks traditionally use to dye their robes.

       And that puts us in the realm of all the rest of the tropical fruits, most of which you’ll come across growing naturally in Thailand. We’re on ‘Coconut Island’, and coconut water can be used for a variety of medical purposes, one of which is emergency intravenous re-hydration. But, then, so many of the fruits in these parts have unforeseen uses. The pomegranate tree contains isopelletierine, which kills tapeworms. Cashew nuts are used to make Madeira wine. Papaya contains an enzyme called papain, which is used to treat spinal disorders. Kiwi fruit has actinidin, which is a natural meat-tenderiser – just smear one on your steak and leave it awhile.

      I was going to go on to dragon fruit, kaffir lime and the strange pandanus tree. But I seem to have run out of space. Fancy that! My story idea seems somehow to have turned itself into a flyer. I’d better send a note to the editor – he can use normal-sized pictures after all!


Rob De Wet


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