Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Cabbages and Condoms, a Winning Idea

rMechai Viravaidya was recognized by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation today with a $1 million award for confronting “taboo subjects like sex and HIV/AIDS directly in order to save lives,” the foundation said.
The funds will be used by Mr. Viravaidya, the chairman of Population and Community Development Association (or simply “condom king,” depending on who you ask), to promote birth control, AIDS prevention and other health issues in more than 50 countries. Almost 3,000 people work for his private group.

To eccentrically prove his points, Mr. Viravaidya has pulled many stunts, including posing for cameras while drinking the same glass of water as an H.I.V.-positive person (to prove it’s not transmitted that way); offering free vasectomies at his restaurants; and bringing fistfuls of condoms to World Bank talks.
He was way ahead of his time. After all, it took New York City another quarter century to bring condoms to the subways.
The name of his restaurant chain, “Cabbages and Condoms,” reflects his philosophy that contraception and condoms should be as accessible as produce in Thailand.
To help break that taboo, condoms and sex toys are a major part of the decor, hanging from ceilings, embedded in tables, affixed to lamps and imitating table flowers. They were even featured in a salad. They are even on the menu: Yam Tung Yang or Yam Cabbages & Condoms.
Despite the sound of that, most reviewers actually like the food. Marian Burros of The New York Times singled out “fascinating” dim sum and “wonderfully herbaceous” shrimp soup among the “well-prepared straightforward food that is very reasonably priced.” (Have you dined there? Leave your own review on our Travel site.)
As for the ambiance, Frommer’s found the garden terrace of the restaurant “quite romantic.” No wonder they leave condoms with the check instead of dinner mints.
By Mike Nizza

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