Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Singapore Day 5: Food. And more food.

The day starts up with two small pastries I picked up from a bakery last night. I share, but still ... I'm eating before I'm hungry. Cheryl takes me along to Mr. Prata, but I can only tolerate a TeeO (black tea and sugar). When the gals head back to work after 10, I look for W, who's on breakfast break with his students. I order a plate of noodles and long (green) beans. They're cold and greasy but I eat most of them.

The students remark on the way I hold my chopsticks. "You know how to hold properly," they exclaim. "We never teach our children so they hold any way. How did you learn?"

From the pictures on the back of chopstick wrappers, of course.

I ask the younger students for a demonstration. "Why do the elders say you don't know how to hold?" They show me how they cross the sticks and randomly stab at food. It's funny to watch. They weren't taught so they just pick up the food however they can. Most Singaporean Chinese alternate chopsticks with a fork and spoon.

"We have to start teaching children to use chopsticks," sighs one of the women. "And you from USA can use it?" The young gal beside me asks how I do it, and with a quick demo tries it out. "I drop food lah." Oh well. You can hardly starve to death here. With spoon. Fork. Or chopsticks.

A food stall in a hawker marker
Cheryl knocks on the office door at noon and invites me along to an official luncheon. They're saying goodbye to a coworker on her last day. However, nothing is mentioned "because she might be emotional about the farewell." Goodbyes will be said privately to this greatly appreciated helper.

Where do we go? To a buffet. Our options:
  • Chinese stir-fry and rice (snow crab and noodles; scallops and tofu...)
  • Japanese sushi (beautiful. Lots of variety)
  • Curries and meats in sauce (mutton curry; Indian beef, etc.)
  • Tempura (shrimp, beef, taro, tofu)
  • Laksa (coconut and meat soup)
  • Satay (beef, chicken, squid, etc.) For this you clip the table number to a stake of the type of meat you want and the chef cooks it up, clips your table number to the skewer, and servers bring it to you.
  • Dim sum (5 enormous steamers of buns and assorted offerings)
  • Pizza and other western foods
  • Ben and Jerry ice-cream bar
  • A pudding and fruit bar: the guava slices with plum sugar are fantastic. I spoon a bit of mango puree into a little cup and put a half-scoop of "B&J Chocolate Therapy" on top.
  • Cake desserts (brownies, squares, etc.) I skipped these entirely.
  • Drink bar: assorted teas and coffees (hot and cold), pop, fruit drinks, water
The variety of food is staggering
A small Malay motions me forward at the ice cream bar. His feet are injured so I wave him ahead. The longest line is at that counter. Everyone grabs the same ice cream scoops and plunges them into the cold water pot when they're done. (That can't be good for us.)

I try to limit my portions but we eat for an hour and a half, between laughing about our common love of Korean drama, miming Bollywood-style motions, and chatting about kids and school and recipes. It's delightful, but we're all so full we just want to sleep when we get back to the office.

Typical neighborhood: looming housing
After work, W and I walk from the flat to the nearby neighborhood center. There are skyscrapers on every side. Once we explore, I have wonton soup and W gets dim sum. We snag a few mini Magnum ice cream bars, stuff them in a freezer bag, and head home. Pistachio ice cream. Groan. Even if it's a little bar, I'm stuffed from lunch, never mind from supper.

We have emails to catch up on and a bit more work to do before bed. I watch an hour of KBS (Korean TV). Cheryl and her kids have a supper appointment before she comes home to pack. They fly out in the early morning hours. (Jay flew home Sunday night. That was a close call: he'd though his flight was Monday until they checked the ticket Sunday evening. Oh my!)

We'll be in the flat on our own until Kirsten arrives early Saturday. I have a pile of research to finish before the weekend. Can't believe it's going to be Thursday when we wake up. It's nearly the end of June. Is anyone else feeling like summer is rushing by?

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