Thai’d Up in Comfort

When traveling on my own, I will, on occasion, feel the slightest tinge of loneliness. It doesn’t happen often, and it doesn’t last for long, but at this time of the year, when dusk comes so early, and a cold wind bites at the neck, I’ll seek out a late lunch or early dinner of comfort food. There are moments when a small dish of macaroni and cheese will do, or a hearty burger, or a bread bowl overflowing with New England clam chowder, but those are not typical choices.

For me, there is no greater dish of comfort than Pad Thai. The most well-known of all Thai dishes, it is substantial and warm and rich with bits of peanut and hefty noodles. Accents of chicken and shrimp dot the flavorful mound of goodness, while scallions lend it some textural crunch.

When ordered as a main dish, I like to amend it with an overture of dumplings or spring rolls. In this case, the lunch special included a roll and a bowl of miso soup. On such a brisk day, it was the perfect combination of culinary coziness and comfort, and as I watched the sidewalk darken, the candles of the restaurant glowed warmly in the window.

Leaves blew by, thrown wildly in the rising wind, and strangers quickened their pace with the falling temperature. From the mostly-empty restaurant, I sat alone at a table for four, sprawled out comfortably, biding time until meeting a friend later. The loneliness subsided by the time the last spoonful of miso soup slid down my throat, and when the Pad Thai arrived, I ate in happy solitude, sustained by a friendly waiter and warmed by a steaming dish.

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