The Thai Student Organization celebrated and shared Thai culture with the University Saturday at their annual Pad Thai Party. Leaders of TSO hoped that the event would allow students to engage with real Thai culture, beyond stereotypical conceptions of it, and that it would encourage more students to join and attend other TSO programming.
Second-year College students Warunya Mahavanakul and Piyamon Piyabootr — the president and vice president of the TSO, respectively — were instrumental in organizing the event. They worked with other TSO members to promote the event by posting flyers around the school as well as promoting and sharing the event through the TSO Facebook page.
“This event has been going on for the past few years, and we talk in TSO meetings that we think not so many people know about how Thailand is except for the elephants and the beaches,” Piyabootr said. “We want people to not only come enjoy food, but also come talk to us about our country and understand it better.”
At the event, which was held at Shea House, students could purchase authentic pad thai — a traditional rice noodle dish — and Thai tea for $7. Students could enjoy either chicken or vegetarian pad Thai, catered by Silk Thai. The profits from the event will be used by the TSO to fund another of the organization’s events this academic year, a Thai street market. At the street market, students will be able to play traditional Thai games and enjoy delicious food. Ultimately, the TSO raised $350.
Mahavanakul said pad thai was chosen as the center of the event because she feels that the history of the dish is very representative of Thailand. The dish was actually invented under the leadership of prime minister Plaek Phibunsonkhram in the 1930s and named “pad thai” as a way to promote Thai nationalism both within and outside of the country. As such, it is an appropriate dish to serve at an event celebrating Thai culture.
Coordinators estimated that about 40 to 50 people attended the event. In past years, the organization has seen greater numbers of people attend. Two years ago, Pad Thai Night had a very successful turnout, with an estimated 100 attendees. Ruoxuan Yuan, first-year College student and attendee, came to the event because she has a friend who is part of the TSO and she wanted to try the food.
“I think the first reason [I attended] is that the food is really nice because I just find it hard to find Thai food places on the Corner or downtown,” Yuan said. “But we can just combine cultural values and the taste of Thai food, and we can also make a lot of new friends, which is a really good way to advocate Thai culture.”
In the past, the event was held as a dinner rather than a midday pad thai “party.” Piyabootr said that this year, due to space reservations and the fact that the Thanksgiving holiday is approaching, it was more suitable to hold a lunch rather than dinner. Everyone was welcome to attend the event, and both Piyabootr and Mahavanakul expressed a hope that more people would be encouraged by it to join the TSO.
“I think a lot of people don’t know that Thai Student Organization is open to anyone to join, like you don’t have to be Thai to join,” Mahavanakul said. “So a lot of people are afraid to join but actually we like organize everything in English and stuff, so we are really welcoming everyone to join us and be a bigger family … We are hoping for more non-Thai active members as well.”