As my parents trekked an unmarked path by foot from Cambodia to the refugee camps of Thailand, they left behind everything they knew or possessed. Those possessions included memories of good times and daily dinners with the extended families who lived in the nearby villages. While the women laboriously prepared various fish dishes and soups, the men sat outside on the wooden decks revisiting old stories as if they were never told before. Meanwhile, the children ran around houses chasing farm chickens that would eventually be part of a future meal.
Surviving and moving forward meant having to forget the past. Some of those pasts were taken away from my parent’s generation during the Khmer Rouge rule. Art, along with the artists, educators, music and its musicians, government officials (my uncle who was a judge), were all taken away to be silenced and forgotten forever.
Cambodia’s treasures and progress since the French Protectorate of Cambodia, were burned to ashes in an attempt to bring the country back to an agrarian society.
One of these great treasures lost were the peppercorn farms in the region of Kampot. Abandoned were the care and techniques of cultivating these quality spices. A great amount of the farmers who raised their families by growing and selling these peppers left the Kampot region in the late 1960s as the Vietnam War loomed, while only a few returned once the Khmer Rouge deserted the area in the late 1990s. A new generation were left to pick up the pieces and re-learn this specific trade from the few remaining surviving experts.
During my first visit to the motherland in 2003, I visited my parents’ village, saw Angkor Wat, and most importantly I had a chance to experience a way of life that seemed, in every which way, different from mine. I instantly felt at home. Although the mainland immediately knew I was a foreigner, they still treated me with the warmth and care they would with their own cousin or neighbor. It has been my goal ever since to promote the land, the people and hidden treasures of my motherland.
We are making it our mission to unearth an abundance of great products from Cambodia to share with the rest of the world.