Be warned: rambling below.
I grew up, in part, in Singapore.
(unrelated to Singapore) For the last 20 years I have been vegetarian.
(slightly related to the Singapore thing in that my career has been influenced by my international experiences) My current academic research is on the literature of former Missionary Kids, which is requiring some very disturbing investigation of the lives of former Missionary Kids. This afternoon that involved watching All God's Children, a documentary about abuse in a West African mission school.
The film, with its description of children in tropical contexts feeling abandoned by their parents brought up two things: 1) some of the more troubling associations being internationally mobile has for me despite my unarguably privileged childhood (feeling loss of people and place chronically); 2) some troubling issues around parenting. I want, perhaps too much, to always put my children first.
Anyway. Of late we have been eating Sunday dinner en famille, a clear benefit of the children getting older.
I am learning to cook meat. For me this is huge, as I stopped eating meat shortly after we left Singapore when I was 14 (perhaps a result of how meat is prepared in schools in England and Wales so maybe Singapore and vegetarianism in Britain and thereafter are related?). Tonight, my ambitious plan involved a package of bone-in chicken pieces.
I wanted to make curry. The pieces were too big. I required a cleaver (traumatic) to make them smaller. I was skeeved out. After whacking away with the cleaver, I bleached everything too much. My hands started to peel. I am born-again at meat eating. Totally new to meat cooking. Totally disgusted by carcasses.
But I managed to make a Singapore Chicken curry. It was like the Tanglin Club on a Saturday afternoon in the mid 1980s. Waaaah, so good lah!
The rest of the family: underwhelmed, though Clara liked the chicken. Husband, after too much compliment-hunting from me, asked what I wanted to hear from him when I looked at him expectantly.
Oh, but I wish you could share my nostalgia in that taste, and I wish the children could understand what those spices connote for me! I wish there were people other than my parents (increasingly loopy and living a continent away) and my brother (a heroin addict with no phone, passport or desire to communicate too regularly with his overachieving straight-edge sister) who shared some of the archive of memories that tool around irrelevantly in my head.
It's been an emotional afternoon.