COVID19: dine in

If there was one place I’d miss going to during this entire isolation period, it would be Ichiban Boshi & Sushi, especially the one at Novena Square where people are the most friendly of all their outlets. I like the security of familiar places, I love food but I am not superbly adventurous, if I find a restaurant I like, I am happy to just continue to return to it.

But now they have takeaway and delivery, yay! I’m so chuffed!

Here in Singapore, all dine-in at restaurants, cafes and food centres is banned for a month. We are in semi-lockdown. Everyone who can work from home have been ordered to stay at home. Singaporeans love our food, so quite a few people have disregarded this order, abandoned all good sense (not to mention towing the line where the new regulations are concerned) and made the news today. This is serious stuff, not “play-play”.

Stay home, Singapore, and order in!

COVID19: privilege

In normal times, privilege is associated with wealth, power, being in a majority race / gender, authority positions etc. But these are not ‘normal’ times anymore. Yes, the normally privileged still hold sway, but there is another privilege that is enjoyed now by also those less wealthy or powerful.

Now, in the swirling midst of a global Pandemic, privilege clearly belongs to the healthy.

What is this I am waffling on about?

Privilege means you can laugh and say:

“It’s not so bad, stop being paranoid, just wash your hands, come on, it’s only the elderly and already sick who will die. It’s not gonna happen to you and me.”

Privilege is getting annoyed at a time like this, when you are:

  • unable to embark on your amazing travel plans… guess what you have health and money enough to travel, how wonderful is that! Can’t you wait till after the pandemic?
  • when you are frustrated about having to work from home because you want to feel that ‘vibe’ at the office… guess what, you have a job! how great is that? Many of those in the ‘never mind they’re gonna die not I’ category don’t have a job, and some who are freelancing have lost all their work because of this pandemic, or are unable to carry on working. And, did you know that for years and years the variously disabled have begged for work that can be done at home, and what kind of response do you think they got from employers? Now, thanks to COVID19 you get to enjoy what so many needed but were denied.
  • when an entertainment event is cancelled and you’d bought tickets or really looked forward to it, what a bummer, isn’t it?… seriously, after all the infections that already happened in other mass gatherings, you’re saying it’s a nuisance you cannot go to more of these things?
  • when you insist on attending social stuff that you don’t absolutely need to do… you are adding to the potential risks for others who have no choice but to be out and about for bread and butter reasons, and some of these may be immunocompromised, did you think about that?
  • when you actually do get sick because you refused to practice decency, social responsibility and self-care… you are taking up resources that could have been better allocated to those who need it more, and you are adding to the overwork of healthcare workers.
  • when you are served a stay-home order by the health authorities and you have enough food to survive with, a comfy bed, a roof over your head, enough entertainment to last you years on Netflix etc, the means to socialise via social media, and yet you grumble because of the inconvenient incursion of being stuck in this slice of luxury… think about the people who are sick but have no means to stockpile food because they live on daily wages and nobody to reach out to when / if lonely (elderly cardboard collectors most probably have no laptops and social media friends).

Continue reading

first meeting

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Phad Thai, mango salad and Thai green milk tea.

Here it is again, that photo of my Thai set meal.

My first production meeting with a new friend who’s kindly consented to be my crafting/making assistant for an upcoming project. We had brunch at the Siamese Cat Thai cafe near my home.

This cafe has had quite a number of complaints about their unenthusiastic service, and I can understand why. We arrived at 10am, when the cafe is supposed to be open for service, but nobody bothered with us, until half an hour later. Never mind, we’re resourceful creatures, we found ourselves a suitable table, and we launched into our excited discussion straight away. Continue reading

pancakes & jelly beans

 

I don’t know why my brain produced that title. There are no pancakes or jelly beans in any of my photographic offerings here today. The words were just echoing inside, wriggling and jiggling among the other bits and bobs, and so I decided I’d let them out to dance around. Perhaps something to do with switching modes from the ‘seriousness’ of advocacy etc to the now ‘lighthearted’ topic of food and friendships?

Food is an integral part of fellowship for humans, methinks. I miss our weekend noshment adventures with friend Rick, mostly in Paddo, though he did travel to Kensington for the dire period when Lucy and I were trapped in that not so suitable environment. And of course, when we were forced to move to awful Rose Bay, Rick valiantly came to our mental rescue. Thanking the cosmos for really great friendships, without them I’d not have preserved even this little semblance of my ability to function! Continue reading

snapshots of grace

 

(Above: Rhapsody in Orange – photos of Salmon roe, Salmon, and common wholemeal bread squares.)

Unabashedly photographing food – almost everything I imbibe – as if on a mission. Unlike most, though, my food is seldom fanciful or posh, my captures are not from expensive restaurants or showy, but merely simple snapshots of quite ordinary and mundane fare. For me, each one carries an association – sometimes sensory memories of textures, smells and colourful tastes, other times brief mini narratives of sorts. Sometimes I am captivated by its arrangement, its visual composition framed within the plate or bowl, and the larger assemblage on the table of many miniature narratives.

 

(Above: Visual captures of Lunar New Year fare, snippets of tastes, smells and accompanying sounds – mostly very loud sounds – of festivity and celebration. Individual photos have descriptions.)

When I began this blog, I started out with a simple mission: to document the great food challenge of ‘How to eat on a scholar’s miserable budget”. Musings were deliberately kept light, sometimes whimsical and other times pondering the deeper things via the cogent agency of ‘food-ing’.

 

(Above: Photos of BunnyHopscotch style food-ing.)

My photographs of food are always intimate and personal – to me – and they speak of suspended moments in time and space, taking deep breaths of appreciation, gratitude at each savouring, and wonderment that I possess such intricate senses – all reflections of and conversations taking place in a kind of Clement Space that I inhabit together with the life-giving morsels du jour.

 

(Above: Eating out with family has a different kind of melodic & harmonic structure.)

 

I like the act of documentation, and my senses are natural archives being fed on a constant basis. And most important to me, on a deeper level, food-ing has been and continues to be an agency for gratitude, and the learning to embrace grace.

a clement Christmas

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Clemency is hard to find. Clement Space is an ongoing quest. As is the Endeavour of Empathy.

Looking back, contemplating crashing fortissimo and lifting appoggiatura, soul crushing depletion and spiritual strengthening… Artaud and Wagner, humour, beauty, gritty determined ‘dogliness’… Lucy has once again carried me through yet another year with her gentle, wordless steadfastness of spirit and embodied grace.

It’s Christmas Eve. I recall with gratitude and fondness, the most precious Christmas gift from our sojourn in Paddington, Sydney. It was 2013, a quiet Christmas Eve, early morning when the summer air was still cool and crisp. Those roses, tossed out by someone, still fresh and beaming with a brilliance I’ve never yet seen nor witnessed again in a bunch of flowers. Put into my hands with a gruff greeting, from our friend Michael, an eccentric old man who lives in a rickety van. We met when Lucy and I were out walking, Lucy chose to say hello to this elegantly dressed solitary figure, smoking and reading the newspapers on the park bench just by our grass patch we call “dog patch”. I miss Paddo. I miss our neighbourhood, our friends, and I think of them often. Especially Michael. I hope he is well. One can never be sure. Michael comes and goes. Nobody knows where and when. I don’t know if I’ll ever see him again. He was choking back tears when we last said goodbye, too proud for a hug, we did not even make eye contact. But I hope he knew how much we would miss him.

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This Christmas Eve, Lucy and I are ‘home’ with mum, my baby sister and brother-in-law, their two little furry children, and our helper Nula. Lucy has over-eaten again, too many treats and a giant lamb bone from her aunt who thinks she is too thin. (Though I keep reiterating that Lucy is a Greyhound, they are naturally lean.) We are waiting for Christmas Eve dinner – yet another private gastronomic feast by my amazing brother-in-law. The over-fed Canine Angel is asleep in bed, next to me. I can hear her rhythmic breathing, and she opens her sleepy eyes occasionally to check on me.

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I reflect on Christmases long past, and I realise how peaceful it is now. Without any more pomp and ceremony, no more need to dodge snide remarks and undercurrents of bitchery or witchery, no competition for whose gift is the most expensive or who has achieved the most success in the year. Those are now distant memories, and juxtaposed with our recent ones, they stand as reminders of how much goodness has come along since I walked away from all that mire.

We had our pre-Christmas dinner with extended family and friends last week. It was a very merry one, noisy and overloading but not at all emotionally or mentally exhausting. A pleasant, happy, kind of overload. And, of course, the food is always delicious – how could it not be, with a top professional chef and two F&B professionals in the party?

This year, I slogged away all week to finish my handmade gifts to mum, baby sis, Mini-B and Tiny-T. A welcome restfulness of spirit and blessedness of mind – taking time away from a surfeit of advocacy work, campaigning and proposals – just to touch, feel, and flow with the patterns and variations so clement to the senses. ‘Making’ is a beautiful activity for me, calming and restoring. I’ve named my jewellery line “LaLaLouBelle” – after Lucy and my childhood nickname for baby sis. Every piece is made up of vintage and antique components, collected through my early years of avid travelling or handed down to me from mum and granny. Each one a narrative of love and filled with meaningful history.

Oh, yes, and Little Mini wee-wee-ed on Lucy’s bed yesterday, so I’ll have to buy Lucy a new bed. Mini is a spunky little (fat) button, with a penchant for Lucy’s bedding.

We’re all set! I’ve put up a miniature tree, with tiny lights and trimmings. Our presents are all ready for the ritual tonight. – we open ours on Christmas Eve.

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A peaceful and clement Christmas Eve wish to all from Lucy and me!

vivification

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Colour, smell and clever arrangement make food more inviting, often enhancing the actual taste itself. Texture also plays a big part. Crunchiness can add a delightfully cheery  dash to even the most ordinary of foods. Of course, the chemical transformations that occur when foods are cooked in certain ways and combined never cease to fascinate.

Food has become more an everyday indulgence than a lively challenge since returning to home ground. In many ways, I miss the latter days, though I have not ceased being grateful and appreciative for each morsel I imbibe. Perhaps the weather here – the humidity – makes everything taste less defined, and having such abundance has dampened the enthusiasm of discovery or provocation. I also cook a lot less than before, as cooked food is cheap and readily available here in Singapore, and my dear foodie-chef brother-in-law either takes us to new places on investigation missions, or he brings his expert professional culinary skills to our table at home.

I do still like to notice the little tiny interplay of colour, tonality, texture, smell and the way each component communicates with the other, like small musical pieces or miniature dances unfolding inside my bowls, plates and dishes. Cutlery interacting with these morsels form a personal and even intense connectivity and communication, sometimes intimate in isolation, and other times part of a larger conversation with the human sensory realm.

It’s Friday yet again. I do miss our weekend noshments in Paddington. There was an aura of preciousness and bonhomie that remains unique to that particular juxtaposition of company, time, place, space and situation – an what conversation! There can be no replication.

minutiae

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I love food. I love the aromas, textures, tastes, colours and visual compositions, not just the way food is presented, but the actual patterns and formations. Wrinkly crinkly chicken skin, taught and shiny tomato skin, curly edges of lettuce leaves, or scattered sesame seeds, food is endlessly fascinating to me in a multi sensory way.

Lately, I’ve been particularly enjoying the tiny details in everything I eat. Apart from spending time with my beloved Lucy, food, and all it encompasses – the sensory fullness and the activity –  is an excellent relief for stress and anxiety. My nifty little Fujifilm X100T (gifted to me by a very good friend) is fabulous for street photography, and not really the camera for portraits or close-ups of little things, but it’s a challenge that I welcome – with some hits and misses, and a great deal of satisfaction and fun.

chumbly

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.

monachopsis

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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.

Lucy.

Home-cooked nosh.

Friendship.

Music.

Art.

Goodness.

Kindness.

Droplets of mercy and grace notes of consideration, respect and gentleness. These all are Clement Spaces, in the midst of monachopsis.