Rendang (Be)Aware!

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Crispy Chicken is KFC, no Rendang!

There’s a big storm in a cooking pot these days, huge outcry over the ignorant judging of a Malaysian dish by a non-Malaysian. So, what’s in a rendang? Plenty. Especially when judged by some self-styled ‘expert’ on a cooking show who has no idea at all what rendang is. Thus, all hell breaks loose. And rightfully so. We are guarding our cultural heritage after all.

Here’s the British High Commissioner in Malaysia weighing in on the matter, defending the delicious not-supposed-to-be-crispy dish.

However, why is it that Autism is being bandied about by non-autistic self-styled ‘experts’ without authentic Actually Autistic voices writing the libretto, and that is deemed ok?

Does this mean that Rendang Awareness is more genuine than Autism Awareness / AutismAcceptance? 

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home cooked by experts

It is lovely to have good meals cooked at home by people who can whip up nosh better than I can. The icing on the cake is that I do not have to lift a finger, and no dishes to wash afterwards. Always look on the bright side of life. 🙂 It’s not always that my peculiar senses fully embrace the eclectic and sometimes strange (to me) tastes, but having that executive function taken care of so completely is a relief, and that makes the smells and tastes all the better, even the dishes I am not as keen on.

Merci Beaucoup! ❤

syncopation

 

 

Sensory syncopation. Buzzing dissonance. Muted vowels. Overwhelming consonants. All this and more, gyrating – determined and unceasing – in the thrilling, vexing and amazing sensory ecology of Hong Kong.

I haven’t been back in 6 years, not since my Haptic Autistry and Haptic HugShrug exhibitions. It was lovely to be back, on old familiar soil, yet with so much vibrant newness yet to explore.

Three lectures/talks, two public and one private, and a great many old friends to catch up with, kept my days buzzing with activity.

 

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A new adventure awaited in Sham Shui Po – gritty, old, traditional and crammed – where I would stay for the entire trip, in a windowless bedroom above the sensory theatre of wet markets, dim sum stalls, cooked and raw food shops side by side, vegetables and fruit, and … fish. I landed smack in the middle of unfamiliarity. It was a deliberate decision, I wanted to experience somewhere different from my old memories of my life in Hong Kong – and I got what I asked for. Picturesque, and I am glad for my nifty Fujifilm X100T, but the olfactory ambience was confronting, to say the least. The smell of pork – raw, uncooked pork – literally envelopes your entire being, pervading the air all the way up into my dark little AirBnB bedroom. Then there was fish, rotting vegetable, overflowing sewers, and human bodies seething with perspiration wrapped in unwashed clothes – thematic elements weaving in and out of the tapestry, as the basso continuo of pork pounded on and on.

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Elderly lady selling fish and vegetables

One picture carved into my mind, leaving me engulfed in a heavy, thick and excruciating wave of sadness and haplessness, is that of an old lady, bent double, sitting on a small stool, selling fish and assorted vegetables, just in front of the strong smelling butchery at the corner. Her catch differed every day, sometimes there were larger fish, other days small ones, even turtles and frogs (for consumption) and dribs and drabs of wilted vegetables and fruits – whatever she could get to sell, I suppose? There is rubbish strewn around the filthy wet street, and there she is, sitting there patiently waiting for customers. I wanted to give her some money, but was afraid she would be offended, and what good would my few dollars do for her anyway? She was there every morning, and I, a stranger and ‘alien’ to this ecosphere, felt a choking sadness, an anguished torment each time I walked by. Hapless. I can still taste the air, hear the soundscape echoing in my head, and see the spunky, brave yet forlorn image of this lady in my mind. Poverty is crushing to witness, and my heart breaks even more because she is so terribly old and frail.
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softly yet

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Frenetic week. Confronting confrontation. Set aside a tiny aperture of Clement Space – beginning the day with quietude. Breakfast alone… local Hong Kong style, from the noisy lady around the corner with the paper hat – steaming hot dim sum … before launching head on into the chaos of the day.

Ah… Hong Kong… heady, head-smashing, overloading, amazing Hong Kong!

jumping melons

jumping melons

gyrating mandarins

broccoli crunch

crispy explosions

against tingling palate

tangy aromatics

polyphonic cacophony

grating chromatics

navigating bodies

bobbing, bumping

fading focus

dizzy, fevered

start, stop, start again

pushing rusty wheelbarrow

along bumpy path

uphill, down

left, right, across

worthy labour

just to see

loved ones

happy

it’s all good

food-space

YumCha with family & friends!

Humans like communal sharing of food, an almost ritualistic social exercise.

Family time at Ichiban!

For those who enjoy food, there is a space inside, an intimate and personal nook, set apart from the interactive merriment and camaraderie, tucked inside that little moment when you imbibe the morsels and make elemental visceral contact with the fabric, material and compounds. This is my favourite part of food: that bubble in time that transports the foodie beyond mere sustenance into soulful contemplation, even if subconscious, of life itself, that solitary interstice of rich sensory luxury. Continue reading

small moments

In a raging sea of tumultuous tossing, frothing and heaving, small moments of grace and respite become crucial life saving sources of sustenance and strength.

So, go out there, disengage with the demons in your head or the monkeys in your circus, and have some time out with a friend, for sushi or tea and cake, an hour or two of elemental refreshment!

food markers

Food can be multi sensorial markers for a journey, tangible physical tabs that help one chronicle the meandering and navigating along the way. Here are my food markers for this trip, a somewhat odd blend of agony and joy, despair and exhilaration all rolled into one jumbled mass.

After arriving at my place of abode, already down with some kind of nasty infection, feverish and in a brain fog, I set about trying to find some nourishment for my weary body. I didn’t manage to get far, due to the sorry state I was in, and settled for a hot dog and an orange juice from the pie and hot dog stand across the road, by the wharf. A sunny day, there were the usual seagulls and pigeons stalking all and any humans sitting at the benches eating. One man brought his little French Bulldog for some sunshine. It was difficult chewing down on the hotdog, my jaw slightly swollen and stiff, but I was quite determined to achieve the feat. The orange juice tasted like soap and plastic though, pretty vile, hence that was abandoned after a few swigs. I so hate to waste. Continue reading

bing!

All of us well into middle age now, and many of us have known one another since primary (grade) school days. We had a grand-ish reunion party at Bing Bing Ice Cream Gallery in Tanjung Katong a week ago. Just 20-plus ladies, but not an easy feat to bring the lot together in one place at the same time – and just imagine the decibel levels when all begin to chatter? Yes, sensory overload for me, and I suffered a pounding headache afterwards, but it was just lovely seeing old friends again, so the pain was worth it. And the ice cream? Simply delicious! Thank you, BL, for letting us descend upon the ice cream shop. And apologies to the customers who were treated to full auditory assault by us over enthusiastic ladies. We’ve not met up in such numbers for a long time. Please come back again to Bing Bing when it is less chaotic, and do enjoy the ice cream, because they serve fabulous flavours for every palate!

(My personal favourites? Gula Melaka with Red Bean, Coconut, and MaoShanWang Durian!)