Pad Thai that’s worth going out at thirty-five below


One night we went out in the snow,

How cold, we didn’t know

     We ordered Pad Thai,

     It was marvelous.  My!

And walked back at thirty below.

Synopsis:  I’m a family practitioner from Sioux City, Iowa.  Avoiding burnout, I’m taking a sabbatical while my one-year non-compete clause winds down, having adventures, visiting family and friends, and working in out-of-the-way places.  Currently I’m on assignment at the hospital in Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost point in the United States.

I’m not used to having legal holidays off.

Technically, when I worked for the Indian Health Service, we got tribal holidays.  They usually coincided with federal holidays, Columbus Day the notable exception.  Still the call schedule had to be filled, and my compensation came in a fixed amount per year, no matter how much I worked. 

Presidents Day came and I didn’t see it sneaking up.  Bethany went to work, and after breakfast, I found no one at morning conference.  My name came up on the schedule with the cryptic term Walk-ins, 8 AM to 1 PM.

I strolled to the clinic area and chatted with the nurses.  I went back to the apartment (remember, the commute runs two minutes at a slow walk), took a nap and read a medical journal.  I got calls to come back to the outpatient area for eight patients: three people with coughs, one each with a painful knee, high blood pressure, a cold, back pain, and sore throat.

In the process I ate lunch and got off at one.

After checking the outdoor temp, I went out for a walk, wandering around town at ten degrees below zero Fahrenheit (about twenty below Celsius).  I picked up a cap bill flashlight at the NAPA store, and I took the long way home, turning the stroll into a two-hour hike.

After Bethany came home from teaching we suited up for a walk across town to Arctic Thai.  I didn’t pay attention to the temp, and I wore the same clothes I’d worn earlier in the day: fleece pants, a long-sleeved t-shirt, parka, hat, and mittens.

When one says one wants to go out to dinner, one rarely means as far out as Barrow, on the north shore of Alaska’s North Slope, where polar bears come into town on a regular basis.  But if you want to go out for really first-class Thai food, and time and distance are not an object, come to Barrow.

We ordered Pad Thai; the price was low by Barrow standards but the portion generous even for people who had wandered in from the cold. 

I do not judge restaurants by the décor or the plates, but by the food and the service.  The hot soup that started the meal came free.  The Pad Thai was the best I’d had.  The cilantro was fresh, the vegetables and chicken stir-fried with a good sear but not overdone. Dessert, custard with sticky rice, didn’t show up on the bill.

The wind picked up on the way back, and half-way home I knew my legs had inadequate protection.  At that point, crossing a lagoon, we had no choice but to keep going.

When we got back I stripped off my cold outerwear.  When I checked the net for the temperature I found a thirty-five below wind chill.

The food was worth it.


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