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?
The family decided to check out this new (to us) dog-friendly place on Friday last week. We’d heard that they served really good local style food for humans, and we weren’t disappointed at all. Too many dog-friendly cafes fail at dishing out good quality human nosh. This one is one of the unusual ones, like The Tea Party at Pasir Panjang, but the great thing about I.N.U. is that they are very near our home.
Lucy was disturbed at the beginning by a small unruly Frenchie named Rufus with an attitude far bigger than his size. He rushed at Lucy, who was nicely settled in her own mat, pawed at her face and attempted repeatedly to mount her. Lucy got up, tried to back away but she was stuck in a small corner and began to look really troubled at the very first launch of this unruly behaviour. I politely requested his humans to please quell their dog – he belonged to a man and a lady, the man completely ignored my requests to remove the dog and did not even glance our way, while the lady came quite reluctantly to remove their dog – but this happened once, twice, three times, four… again and again and again, and they never once offered an apology.
Righto, dog people, here’s some frank advice: if your dog has this kind of problem, please keep him/her leashed, or crated. This is just simple, standard basic decorum. I mean, would you like it if I kept rushing up to you and shoving you in the face and climbing onto you, engaging you in ‘friendly’ wrestling match, when all you’re doing is trying to have a quiet meal in your own little corner? Why should dogs be any different in terms of invasion of personal space, why should my well behaved dog have to put up with rowdy behaviour, even if not aggressive but overtly, inappropriately ‘friendly’?
My poor gentle Lucy was becoming more and more agitated at the unwanted visits (every few seconds) from the dog, and so was I, almost at my wits’ end trying to stay calm and composed while keeping that nuisance away from my girl. Another thing about this kind of anti-social dog behaviour is that the big dog who is the gentle victim is inevitably blamed if their threshold to endure is crossed and the big dog retaliates. What would happen to the small bully if Lucy were not so patient, long-suffering and retiring, and if I had allowed my girl to be continuously assaulted in that way? Whose fault would it be if an altercation ensued and someone got hurt? It was not pleasant at all, and I was just about to enter into the ‘near meltdown’ zone, when suddenly, the manic intrusions stopped.
What happened was something I didn’t expect but was very grateful for. The overly rambunctious Frenchie finally disappeared from view. I turned around to look for him, and saw that someone had placed him in the elevated section near the cashier and behind a sturdy baby/doggy gate. There, within that confined space, I could see Rufus running amok, but at least he wasn’t bothering my Lucy anymore. I presume it was either Cindy, the owner of the cafe or the dog’s own humans who placed him there. Very thankful for that extra space for ‘time-out’, a most well thought out design of space by the owners of the cafe. Thank you, Cindy!
The other dogs there were very well behaved and we made sure our little curious Tiny was similarly kept in check. That is the way playgrounds ought to be, spaces where children can enjoy themselves, interact safely one with another, with adult supervision, and the same applies to doggy-play.
At last, we could focus on food and enjoying our evening. I ordered the beef tendon and brisket noodle, and the others had fried rice, pork ribs, and bak kut teh. This may seem like a tall order, but truthfully, every dish was delicious! The noodles were just al dente enough without being chewy, the broth aromatic and dark, and there was a good balance of beaf tendon, brisket and green veggies. I tasted some of mum’s fried rice, and although I am not a fan of fried rice, I don’t really like my food all mixed up in an indistinguishable mess, but this one was done right – the rice didn’t stick together in a goopy mass, the rice was lightly textured, and I was able to taste the individual ingredients quite clearly. I didn’t manage to take a photograph of the bak kut teh because my brother-in-law ate it all up rather quickly, nodding his head and making approving noises as he went. The pork was cooked perfectly, tender and the marinate zesty with a hint of spice. We had banana ice cream for dessert, but this wasn’t my favourite, as it was a tad overly sweet. Nevertheless, five big thumbs up from all of us (Nula, our helper too)!
Even Lucy eventually had fun – she decided it was safe to have a wander around after the rambunctious Rufus was removed from her vicinity, and got up from her mat to ‘mingle’ with the shorties (all the others were little ones) in her quiet, regal and slightly aloof way. Another delightful detail? The owner of the cafe has two lovely Shibas, gentle and perfectly behaved sweethearts with such adorable curly tails!
We shall return. Thank you for a lovely evening, I.N.U.!
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.
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!
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
Noshment. Sustenance. Oil in my physical lamp. Goodness for my soul. And thankfulness in the spirit. The family – mum, baby sis, brother-in-law, furry boys, and helper Nula – had lunch at our usual favourite yesterday, but at a new location. It seems as if the neighbourhood malls are more crowded than the main shopping street in the city. I bring my mental clement space with me. It is a struggle, most definitely, but equilibrium is what I seek. Continue reading