Sensory diary entry: I’ve been gravitating towards a certain texture of food lately. I find a sensory comfort and solace in it, a form of sensorial equilibrium unfolds and settles from inside out, while performing the delicious act. The Cantonese word for it is much more sensorially descriptive: 煙韌 yin ngan (jin1 ngan6). The term has two meanings in Cantonese. One refers to a slightly exaggerated, demonstrative, sweet intimacy between lovers, and the other describes the experiential texture of chewiness, in the act of ‘chumbling’ – I love that old fashioned word. There is a bounciness to this 煙韌 which I love, but I cannot find the appropriate English to do justice to the fulness of the sensation. You’ll have to chew on a 湯圓 stuffed rice ball, like a giant sago ball, or a Japanese mochi ball, to fully grasp the complete expression. A savoury version is the marinated mini octopus, Japanese style, though the octopus dish has less tensile ‘spring back’ in its bounce. Now, I’m hungry. Time to scuttle out for something chumbly.
Wriggling… awkward shifting, shuffling… navigating frothy nausea… think, dank fog…
How to craft Clement Space inside a constantly assaultive alienation? Minuscule foci. Small things. Split-second moments. Carpe diem! Each tiny aperture is a precious molecule.
Droplets of mercy and grace notes of consideration, respect and gentleness. These all are Clement Spaces, in the midst of monachopsis.
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.
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?
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! ❤
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.
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.
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.
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!
against tingling palate
start, stop, start again
pushing rusty wheelbarrow
along bumpy path
left, right, across
just to see
it’s all good
Wishing all who celebrate a very Happy Lunar New Year and a wonderful Year of the Dog!
We’ve already had a test-drive “Lo Hei” – our special Singaporean salad dish, yusheng. It was super delicious, done just the way we love it – thanks to my dear brother-in-law Robin!
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
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!