I shall start with the last meal I ate in 2008 — and that was cooked by the birthday boy (BB) for whom we celebrated at Gunther’s in July. As is our usual practice, this eating-travelling group normally tries to get together in the apartment facing Katong Park in the 2nd half of December. It could be New Year’s Eve (which was the case in 2008) ) or Christmas Eve or something in between.
As is usual, too, whenever BB cooks, it is somethng innovative and lip-smacking good, and often inspired by his latest travels. It was no different this time. He had just been to Syria and so on the main menu were mensef and raw veggies (above), inspiration for which came from a meal he had in Damascus.
But he must have raised the standard of the normal mensef by several notches since a google on the Internet turned up a dish that was more basic than classic. Not so BB’s version, which was chockful of nutty goodness (cashew, pistachio and pine nuts) and canopied by lightly grilled n spiced spatchcocks. I’ll let the picture do the talking…
Be4 we proceeded to this communal dish, we started with our apetiser in the sitting room which was by tradition always washed down by champagne. We have had various labels on previous occasions but this time I made sure we drank Veuve Clicquot , my favorite bubbly.
It went extremely well with the angel hair tossed in caviar, truffle oil and shavings, a dash of yusu zest and finely chopped otoro, which is far better than Gunthers and at a fraction of the cost (I presume as BB did not say).
The sweet ending(s) were provided by L who made a special trip to Canale to bring back these goodies. There were pairs of tiramisu, lemon meringue and chocolate cheese cake and a wedge of macha cake. However, all of us thought the goodies too “moussy”, which showed we still prefer the bite of real cake to mousse on a biscuity base masquerading as cake. Canale bakers should take note!
As the clock struck midnite, we could see the smoke from the fireworks at Marina Bay but nothing else. Symbolic of the fact that the future is cloudy? So ended 2008 with us wishing one another a better 2009 which, given the economic wind chill that’s swept across Singapore, is what everyone is hoping for.
The day be4 New Year’s eve was especially heavy hearted for me tho like all things in my life, the ending was still uplifting. There had been a sudden terrible illness (the Black Swan of life, using Nassim Taleb’s imagery for the markets in his Black Swan and Fooled by Randomness books) in the extended family just be4 X’mas which culminated in a bereavement, followed by a 3-day wake and the cremation at Bright Hill Temple on Dec 30. A vegetarian meal rounded off the occasion.
I thought I won’t be able to eat, since I already had a normal lunch be4 heading for the temple. And given the occasion, I believed I won’t have stomach for the food. Perhaps all those at the cremation had the same thought, for most of us there had been thru an emotionally gruelling week, tho some more than others of cos.
Yet ate we did. Chatted we did! And Bright Hill’s famed vegetarian dishes, especially the delicious fried bee hoon cooked to perfection with hardly any oil, magically coaxed life back into our taste buds… life must go on…a new lightness like the pale light cast over our food crept into us…
As the extended family and close friends parted ways, i decided to head for Icekimo at the Sin Min Centre nearby. I needed some sugar solace and also to spend the good luck red packet a sister in law had handed me, together with flowers for the post cremation shower when I got home.
I went to Icekimo for the first time a fortnite earlier when LH took me there. And I loved the super big scoop of mocca ice-cream sitting on the super-crunchy waffle bowl so much that I had thought repeatedly of a return visit to eat what I thought was great stuff at the super bargain price of $2 per serving.
Alas, I should have learned from my Tin Hill experience that first impression ain’t always correct…so it was with Icekimo. First, there was no mocca flavour and I had to settle for teh-tarik. Next, I was horrified to be charged $2.80 for a scoop of the ice-cream and another 50 cents for the waffle bowl. And the scoop was literally half the size of the one I ate previously.
Peeved, I called LH and since her home was a hop, skip n jump away, I asked her to please come and take a look. She did. Confirmed the scoop was a lot smaller and that it must have been the boss who served me. It was. What about the price?
LH said she didn’t know where I got the $2 idea from. She had paid $3.30 per portion last time, although the price per scoop without the waffle bowl had originally been $2.50.
The teh terik tasted flat. Won’t make a trip all the way there in future, unless I’m sure mocca wld b available. At $2 I might be tempted but not at $3.30!
Funny u wld think after what I had gone thru since Dec 22, though nothing like what the parents of the deceased had gone thru, I would be less petty abt dollars and cents and be more mindful abt eternal verities. Alas, I guess when one is afflicted with heavy karma, there is no way to intellectualise it away.
Now to rewind back to Dec 27, 26 and 25…
The first SMS I got when I got up on the morning of Dec 27 was exactly what I both feared yet anticipated from what the medicos had been telling us from X’mas eve onwards. But I shan’t go into those painful details.
Suffice to say, i decided to keep my dinner appointment with a friend on Dec 27, mainly because ceremonies for the departed won’t begin till Dec 28 and I, being ever pragmatic, saw no reason to sit at home and brood. Also, if I didn’t go to K’s place, this would be the 3rd time I’m missing out, the first two times because she was serving beef and duck respectively and I hate both meats with a vengeance.
This time it was going to be soup from turkey bones and other cold food which was more my cup of tea… as well as my glass of wine, which is Monkey Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2008, thank you..
Now K n her friend live in an HDB flat somewhere in Bukit Batok, right over an LRT station. It’s high — above 20 storeys and in a compound with several equally highrise homes. It is very reminiscent of Hongkong when I last stayed with a friend at Taikooseng. What’s more amazing about this new generation HDB home is that if this is public housing, what am I doing in private when I pay four or five times the price but have perhaps only about equal amount of enjoyment?
X’mas Day and Boxing Day (Dec 26 for the uninitiated) were made particularly memorable this time due to the fact that I was roped in to sit in with the grieving parents to hear the great doctors’ views on their doctors’ prognosis. But enough of that.
Lunch on X’mas day was as usual –for the past 20 years I think — at B’s family home. His mum is the greatest hostess, generous and kind, and keeps a running meal for many friends, relatives and even those connected with the first two categories.
The high point for me at that meal has always been the bone-in-ham from the Meritius Mandarin. My strategy is to go late and have a whale of a time shaving bits of the ham to eat on its own. Can’t do that when the buffet party is getting into swing and everybody is crowding around to take his slice of ham.
Dec 26 saw TK drop by for her farewell haircut by me be4 she headed back to Melbourne where she now lives. I’ve become her hairdresser since WC stopped cutting her hair. After she left, MK dropped by for lunch. I fed her with watery porridge made with left over salmon.