I will probably never know, but I have found out what happens when Thai people eat like Americans.
I returned to Bangkok to find Starbucks with their Frappucinos everywhere, gelato stands and gourmet icecream parlors in profusion, pizza and doughnuts and MacDonald's and Burger King even more a part of the landscape than they were when I left, wafflemakers at every Skytrain stop along with German sausage stands and bakeries with cookies and flabby croissants and squishy white bread. Fried chicken is much easier to find than grilled on my neighborhood street--thank you, Colonel Sanders!
And people are getting fat. It used to be a rare sight to see a Thai woman who was obese--now they are everywhere. I'm not talking about figures that are plump and cute and zaftig--I mean bodies that would be hard-pressed to fit in an airline seat. The children who seven years ago were well beyond chubby and happily replied KFC and french fries when asked what their favorite food was are now adults who are fine candidates for heart disease and diabetes.
Eating patterns have changed as well. The most subversive poster I have seen since I came back had nothing to do with deposed Prime Ministers or shirts of different colors--it was a picture of a young Thai man, sitting alone at his laptop with a single-portion frozen dinner steaming nearby. This is so antithetical to Thai culture, where friends and family gather to eat food that they love in good company, ignoring all other concerns in favor of the meal, that it is even more heretical than remaining seated in a movie theater when others rise. It strikes directly at the heart of the Kingdom--at the appreciation for good food that is well-prepared, at the need to be nourished in the presence of people one loves, at the recognition that work is less important than being fed on many different levels. It is as sad as the recent news that people prefer to buy packaged food at a supermarket, rather than shopping at a fresh market, because supermarket food is more hygienic.
The other day I read that Bangkok will soon boast its very own chain of Krispy Kremes that will join the throngs of Dunkin' Donuts and Mr Donut in Bangkok shopping centers. My cholesterol soared at the very thought of these little fat bombs attacking bodies in Bangkok--and I began to wonder if there is a Weight Watcher chapter established yet in the City of Angels. Attention entrepreneurs--a new growth opportunity awaits.