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As usual, the Weekend Market at Chatuchak was hot, steamy, wet, smelly, and very crowded. But if you go accepting that fact, it is full of delights. This time though, we were visitors to Bangkok, and couldn’t buy anything that would be too bulky for our suitcases, or too breakable to take on the journey. And there were different items for sale – many more homewares and art than when I first visited.

That was back in March 1980, when the market was based at Sanam Luang (a large field over the road from the Grand Palace). It was my first full day in Bangkok, and it was overwhelming. Over that year, I visited the Weekend Market many times, usually wearing our school uniforms because then we could truly haggle (we’re only students, we have no money!). Then ten years later, when I returned to work at the New Zealand Embassy, we were regular visitors and took all our guests there too. I still have the table lamp and other items we bought there.

Fast forward another 18 years, and we were back at the market with friends who were working at the Embassy. We came across a large area selling crockery. Particularly interesting were some tiny, brightly-coloured cups (espresso-sized, I guess) and saucers. My friend fell in love with them, and she and I spent a long time choosing flawless cups and saucers (there were a lot of seconds in the large baskets) and mixing and matching the colours, without any duplication. The men wandered off. This was not their scene. They didn’t realise that these cups might influence their social life for decades.

“But really,” C said as she was sorting through the basket, and looking for a lime green saucer that would work with the splash of green on one cup, “what will I use the cups for? They’re so small.”

I had a brainwave. “You could use them for chocolate mousse, or soups for a fancy meal. You know, when you only need a couple of mouthfuls of soup because there are six more courses to come.” She loved the idea, and bought the cups and saucers. When she returned to New Zealand, and some years later bought a house that was made for entertaining, we remembered the idea of a fancy dinner. And so, our semi-annual/annual degustation dinners were born.

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