Singapore Adventure

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

What Will You Eat?
by venitha

"What will you eat?" I asked my co-worker, Z, as we discussed her Chinese New Year plans.

She had asked me the same question a month ago, regarding my Christmas plans. My response: a spiral-cut honey-baked ham, procured at excessive expense from the nearby Cold Storage. It was exactly what we'd have had at home in Colorado, and it was worth every penny.

"Pig stomach. And pig trotters. You know, the hoofs? Mmmm... so good."

I greeted this with stunned silence and tried to stifle an incredulous and skeptical look.

"It doesn't sound good, I know. But, ooooh... The best is barbecue pork. Mmmm..." Z brings her fingers to her mouth and pretends to nibble, smacks her lips.

"The flat square pieces at those shops in Chinatown? I think I've had that."

"Yes, but don't buy it now. Very inflated prices now because of Chinese New Year. Mmmm... so good."

"You just eat it plain? You don't make a sandwich or anything?" I asked. I've only tried the small free samples from the shops, and I was fairly unimpressed. It's essentially pork jerky with a sweet and/or spicy glaze.

"No, just nibble." She makes more yummy noises. "It's got lots of fat. Very bad for you."

Singaporeans frequently make remarks like this, and I always paste a smile on my face as I struggle not to take it personally. It's like because I'm larger than they are (Z, in particular, is toothpick thin), they assume I don't know how to eat healthily. I assume that my body contains internal organs, you know, like intestines and kidneys and a stomach, that their bodies obviously don't have room for, but do you see me lecturing them about the dangers of this black-market organ harvesting scheme that they're clearly all in on?

Jim assures me that I'm completely over-analyzing and that this is merely a common topic of Singaporean conversation, just like the cost of absolutely everything, from my watch to my condo rent to my airline tickets to India. And just like diarrhea.

Thank you, Jim. Now, regardless of whether or not I believe him, food fat-content lectures and diarrhea are forever linked in my mind, connected by a neural pathway parallel to the one tying to fecal urgency.

I somehow think the next time I hear very bad for you, my smile will be genuine.

Our neighbors have since given us a package of BBQ chilli pork from Lim Chee Guan, and I was wrong, wrong, oh so wrong. What was that about a slow, sultry burn? The only way I could have enjoyed it more is if I hadn't known that it has lots of fat and is very bad for me. FYI, it did not cause diarrhea. I know you were wondering.