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Mendhi hands by Pushpa Jain. Photographer unknown. All rights reserved.Fish decoy. Photo by Pearl Yee Wong. All rights reserved.Embroidered dress detail. Photo by Pearl Yee Wong. All rights reserved.Cedar bird by Glen VanAntwerp. Photo by Al Kamuda. All rights reserved.
Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Awards

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Racheneboon Nimsombun and Michie Nimsombun
2012 master artist and apprentice
Lansing (Ingham County)
Thai cooking and food traditions

Thailand native Rachaneboon (Rachel) Nimsombun is a self-described “foodie” who grew up with home-cooked Thai cuisine as rich in flavor as it was in tradition. In her childhood home in Bangkok she watched and helped her mother prepare family meals, including how to select herbs, spices and vegetables every day at the market. She mastered many of the techniques that are fundamental to good home Thai cooking, for instance, how to create fresh coconut milk by squeezing coconut meat through gauze.

In the 1990s Rachel relocated to the United States to attend Seattle University, where she received a Master’s in Business Administration and Finance. When she moved to Lansing she combined her business education with her interest in food and obtained an Associate’s Degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management from Lansing Community College. 

Once settled in her own home in Michigan, Rachel continued the cooking traditions and recipes that her Mom taught her back home. Though Thai food found in U.S. restaurants is often tailored to Western tastes, and authentic ingredients are sometimes difficult to come by in Michigan, Rachel has found a way to maintain her family food traditions. Her daily preparation of the evening meal keeps her connected to her Thai family and culture, while helping to illuminate that culture for her son, Michie, who has grown up without a direct connection to his roots. Michie’s interest in Thai cuisine led mother and son to do a formal apprenticeship, through which Rachel has passed on to Michie her knowledge of traditional Thai cookery. Sometimes, despite the 14-hour time zone difference, Rachel, Michie and her parents and siblings share a homemade family meal “together” via Skype.

Rachel’s food blog, Edible Obsession (http://edibleobsession.blogspot.com), features Thai recipes, restaurant reviews and other local food news.

-Lynne Swanson

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