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Kasma’s Mother

Michael Babcock, November 1st, 2012

Recently Kasma’s mother, Somjai Loha-unchit, passed away. She had been quite ill for many years and living in a Thai hospital for the past two years or so. Her death, although long expected, still brings a wellspring of grief into our life.

Kasma with Mom

Kasma & her mom, early days

I especially wanted to acknowledge her passing on this blog because, in many ways, Kasma’s mother is the inspiration for everything that has appeared here.

Kasma first learned to cook and obtained her love of food from her mom. She dedicated her first book, It Rains Fishes: Legends, Traditions and the Joys of Thai Cooking

To Mother, Who taught me how to cook;

More importantly, she raised Kasma to strive to achieve what she wanted and not to settle for less. Largely because of her mother’s influence, Kasma left the corporate world (much to the dismay of her more conventional father) and ultimately ended up introducing Thai food and culture to thousands and thousands of people over the years. It really all began with her mother.

(Click images to see larger version.)

Kasma & Mom 3

At Cha-am, 2010

Mom's 90th

90th Birthday, 2011

Although her last years were difficult, Kasma would take her out on excursions whenever possible. Her mother had always loved the beach and this picture shows her playing in the sand on her last visit to the beach at Cha-am in 2010.

And up until the end, mom did like her cake and ice cream. Here she was celebrating her 90th birthday in 2011.


Kasma & Mom 2

On an outing in 2006

Here is the reply Kasma made to emails from students, friends and trip members who wanted to know if they could make a memorial gift on behalf of Kasma’s mother:

“Thank you so much for your email and your condolences. I really appreciate it.

“A memorial gift isn’t necessary, but if you wish, I think you would honor my mother very much by making a donation to the Global Fund for Women. My mother fought to be recognized in an era and in a part of the world where women were oppressed and secondary to men. Raised in poverty without the resources to get an education beyond secondary school, she had the strength to lift us out of poverty by her frugalness, hard work and dedication to the family and was very vocal in making sure her daughters get an education equal to her sons. She was absolutely delighted when I honored her by giving up a prestigious job with a large American corporation to put the cooking and survival skills I learned from her to good use to create a life of my own.

“Should you decide to make a donation on her behalf, her name is Somjai Loha-unchit.”


Kasma‘s Mom, 2010

Somjai Loha-unchit, 2010


Written by Michael Babcock, November, 2012

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2 Responses to “Kasma’s Mother”

  1. Leslie Hayne says:

    Dear Kasma and Michael,
    What a beautiful lady Somjai was, in every way.
    Thanks for sharing – I’m thinking of you.
    Sincerely,
    –Leslie

  2. Mike Bernhardt says:

    Thanks for this very beautiful post. It’s interesting as we look at the connections that make us who we are. Because of Kasma’s mother, I know how to cook authentic Thai food. I think that from now on I’ll be remembering that as I cook, and I suspect I’m not alone.

Leave a Reply to Leslie Hayne