Wednesday, October 04, 2023

Telur Ikan Asam Pedas

I haven't dared to get anything from Hjh Maimunah for years now. They were good and then really bad for a bit. Recently, they're back to being good. Got food from Hjh Maimunah for a few consecutive Mondays, of which the portions fed me for both lunch and dinner. I go early at 10.30am to get a takeout, or to eat quickly and leave before the major lunch crowds come in.

I always get a ton of begedil to go along with the sambal belado. Mmmmm. I usually order four begedil for myself. The staff used to raise an eyebrow and repeat "Four?!" I always nodded extremely enthusiastically. There was once I ordered eight begedil. Those were eaten over two meals lah — four at lunch and four at dinner, all for me, didn't share with the man. Heh. Now the current staff all know my love for perkedel but not potato wedges or potatoes in curry. Hahaha. 

I just try to forget about how much white rice I'm shoving into the stomach because it goes so well with the gravy, sauces and all the spices. The nutritional value isn't very high, to be honest, but the satisfaction level is through the roof.

That day, I was so pleased to spot fish roe! Had to have that. Fish roe is something I prefer not to cook for myself, and it's really best with sambal and spices. At Hjh Maimunah, I had a choice of how I wanted it prepped. Well, everything has been cooked, so the kitchen literally poured the diner's choice of sauce of chillies over it. Telur ikan assam pedas it was!

Tuesday, October 03, 2023

Choya is Six!

Choya turns six years old today. She doesn't need extravagant cakes or any sort of parties. She's happiest spending the day and the week in the way she normally does, with her fav humans and floofs around. We got her a cake to pose with, and we humans ate it. LOLOLOL. Little Favors' last seasonal cake of September — strawberry, salted sakura leaf and matcha

Obviously she doesn't get that much extra cheese. Hallo, the point is NOT TO LAOSAI OKAY. So I split all her food treats over the week. Choya gets oysters and a nice slab of NZ grass-fed tenderloin. We also got some cupcakes from In Good Thyme to share with floof-fwens. 

Dogs are considered senior dogs in the last 25% their expected lifespan. Choya will be considered a senior dog in two years when she turns eight. I'm hoping she exhibits signs of old age only at ten. Her nutrient profile will shift as she ages and according to the potential ailments that might weaken her. I'll need to know how to tweak her diet. Before that, I should have time to delve deeper into canine nutrition and exercise for senior dogs.  

My cheeky smol girl is still cheeky. With each passing year, my wish of 10 more good years with her does diminish in reality. She's ageing every day. I'm getting older. I'll do all I can to keep myself nimble and flexible, and to keep her safe and healthy, and hope for the best. Now, that's a wish I wish would come true.  

Monday, October 02, 2023

All in Penang in 1921 :: 'The House of Doors'

It was such a pleasant surprise when I was skipped ahead in the NLB reservation waitlist and got to borrow the digital copy of Tan Tan Eng's 'The House of Doors' (May 2023). This was way ahead of my original 69th place in the queue. The catch is — I gotta return it in seven days and there was no renewal. I was thrilled. THANKS. I read fast anyway and returned it the next afternoon. 

This is the author's first novel in ten years, and it's on the longlist of The Booker Prize. Now, this is a genre alien to me. I'm almost always bored. I confess, I was bored through the stories. The writing is decent, mind you, and the author has re-imagined the characters in a most interesting manner. But this is a very boring colonial era that I'm not particularly fond of. And I'm not too hot about the author's excellent writing style, which many have appreciated. (Reviews herehere, here and here.)

We go to Malaya's Penang in 1921 and 1922 with the Hamlyn family at their Cassowary House. We have barrister Robert Hamlyn who seems successful and respected, and his wife Lesley Hamlyn who was a music teacher and after marriage, is now a society hostess; she was born and bred in the Straits Settlements, and speaks fluent Malay and Hokkien. Their two sons are schooling back in boarding school in England. The Prologue and Epilogue are set in 1947 in South Africa, told through Lesley’s eyes. The first ten chapters moved really slowly, with two narrators setting it all up. 

The author took a time leap and weaved an intersecting timeline between writer W. Somerset Maugham and Chinese revolutionary leader Dr Sun Yat-Sen. The author also utilized the actual murder trial of Ethel Proudlock in 1911 but pushing it earlier to 1910. This trial eventually became the fictionalized in Somerset Maugham's 'The Letter', published as a short story in collection titled 'The Casuarina Tree' (1926). (Literature students, we would have had to read this story at some point too.) But this book is still fiction, all fiction. Although we get a first hand invitation to view the society in that era, how the characters would think, what they would do, and how they lived.

Love, losses, friendship, duty, obligations and social norms in colonial times, et cetera. All these against the backdrop of the Chinese revolution that fell the Qing Dynasty in 1911. The issues of race aren't so prominent in here, although the angst of identity is. At the end, I understood the author’s choice of this title — The House of Doors. It’s an actual house and venue in the story. It also alludes to the choices the final narrator Lesley has made, and the doors she has opened and closed to be where she is in 1947. When Robert passed on in the winter of 1938 in South Africa, Lesley, only in her fifties, made a choice not to return to Penang, and stayed on in South Africa. Till a book arrived.  

The story ended with the Epilogue narrated by Lesley, and this paragraph,

The night is vast and still. My breaths hang in the air like clouds of moondust. I lift my face, searching out the familiar patterns sequinned into the night sky. For a long time I stand there in that great hall of the temple of stars. I should go back to sleep, I tell myself. I have to get up early. There are many tasks to do in the coming days and weeks — travel arrangements to make, things to hold on to, and things to let go of.

But first there is a letter I must write and send, a letter to Arthur, waiting for me in the House of Doors. 

Here, on the margins of the desert, it is just gone midnight, but as I turn towards the east, turning with the rotation of the earth, I know that, on an island on the other side of the world, it is already morning.