Thursday, June 18, 2009

Thai Tea

For weeks, I looked forward to attending the Printer's Row Book Fair. Held every spring in open air, the fair ranged over several streets in downtown Chicago. I was excited at the prospect of being surrounded by books and like-minded bibliophiles. It's an ambience that I have always luxuriated in. I browsed and meandered within and between the different stalls- those of booksellers and publishing houses, both large and small.

The signs bore familiar names from past years- Powells Books, University of Chicago Press, and my favorite, Casterbridge Books. I drew towards them, enchanted. I thumbed through works of fiction- the volumes stacked haphazardly on wooden tables and makeshift shelves -and found the old stalwarts from my earlier years. There were the old editions of Thomas Hardy's novels at the aptly named Casterbridge Books stall and also George Eliot's Adam Bede -whose titular hero had stolen my heart. The characters in these books entwined their lives with mine at one time, providing solace and comradeship to a gangly twelve-year old.

I thank my dad for igniting my abiding passion for reading which started when I was young. He would take me on our weekly trip to the local Salvation Army store. Once there, we headed without fail to the used book section. What new books awaited me this week? There was Heidi living on the Alpine mountainside with her grandfather, Hans Brinker and his equally charmed life. I eagerly snapped up on one occasion a hefty volume of the Swiss Family Robinson - with Robinson Crusoe on the flip cover. Two for the price of one! I learned from these pages the meaning of the word caoutchouc for the first time -so very useful if you are stranded on an island.

Hours after the book fair, E and I sipped tea at a Thai restaurant in suburban Chicago. The evening was cooler and we put on sweaters, warming ourselves with hot Thai tea. The tea was curiously fragrant. I could tell that its base was an Indian black but it was only later on that I learned of the other added spices -the principal one being star anise. The copper-hued liquor had a bracing licorice bite that I found pleasant. We shared a piece of Thai custard -earthy and rich- and finished our pot of tea, ready for the drive back home.

No comments: