Food nirvana at Tampa's Thai Temple

Some have described the scene as jarring — the beautiful, colorful Thai temple standing near the shore of Hillsborough County’s Palm River — but it seems so natural to me. Having studied immigrants for many years, especially their food and restaurants, I'm filled with admiration for the enterprising Thais who built up Wat Mongkolratanaram and, in a sense, made the landscape conform to their creation rather than the other way around. I’m also impressed with how they built up their Thai outpost: with food.  Every Sunday, supporters of the temple prepare vast amounts of Thai food at their own expense to sell in exchange for donations to the temple. I’ve watched steaming kettles of soup and bubbling woks of oil build the temple over the last few years - bringing in the exquisite tiles for the roof and gilding the building with gold and glittering gems.  I like to think that my oversize appetite can claim credit for a few of those tiles and bling.