Singapore Adventure

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Sam I Am
by venitha

Five minutes into a layover at Los Angeles International Airport, shortly after we moved to Colorado, I turned to Jim and said, "We live in a diversity wasteland." In the last five minutes, we'd probably seen more different ethnicities than we'll see in our entire lives in Colorado.

At the time, I missed Madison, its trees and lakes, its bars, and its ethnically diverse engineering campus. So it's no surprise, really, that I found and fell in love with Colorado's own innate beauty, its mountains, learned to make my very own very killer margarita, and somehow befriended women whose racial backgrounds span the globe.

In moving to Singapore, which is ethnically primarily Chinese, Malay, and Indian, I expected to welcome regular reminders of some of these friends, and I do. Dumplings and roast duck remind me of Julie (Chinese). Beautiful Sreedevi (Indian - Tamil), whom I now sit next to at work, reminds me of beautiful Manisha (Indian - Gujarati), whom I used to sit next to at work. Deepali's (Indian - Marathi) delicious chole reminds me of Ami (Indian - Gujarati).

Friday night, however, I was surprised upon my first timid sip of Chinese mutton soup to think I'd tasted this soup before. While Jim soliloquized about how you just don't expect green soup to taste good, Sam I Am, I paged in confusion through the cookbook of my mind in search of green. Ambrosia? No. Pesto? No. And then I had it!

"Peas, Jim. It doesn't contain peas. That's why it tastes good."

Another spoonful - it is good, and if I don't start eating, there won't be any left for me - and I'm sorting through spices, rifling through mental pages sticky with fresh garlic and ginger, encrusted with cracked black pepper. But no, no, and, yet again, no. I chew on a tender juicy chunk of mutton, and... Aha! Fataneh! From Iran?!? What are you doing here? This is Singapore!

The color, the spices, the flavor, the texture, even the mutton: all the same as a soup Fae calls sabzi. Amusingly, the one notable difference is that Fae's version contains kidney beans. For once here in Singapore, I actually expect something to contain beans, and it doesn't!

Jim and I toasted our shared Tiger beer to this small, small world. We clinked our mugs in honor of Fae (Iranian) and the sabzi she cooked for us a lifetime ago, then in honor of Brian (American) and his recommendation of both soup and hawker stall, and one last time in honor of the hawker (Indian) and his marvelous soup, of which we ordered a second bowl.