Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Crazy Cravings

CRAVINGS during pregnancy is something I have long forgotten and banished to the dusty archives of my mind.
But it came hurtling back recently when I met an elegantly pregnant woman who had travelled all the way from a far-flung corner of the British Isle, in search of cincaluk.
Yes, cincaluk. To have a craving is something, but to have a craving for something that is almost impossible to get, is another thing altogether.
Before venturing out to London where Oriental supermarkets store almost everything on their chaotic shelves, she had sent me a message to point her in the direction of the coveted item.
I, the least adventurous person where food is concerned, could only point her in the direction of Chinatown, to which she dutifully went with hopes of bringing cincaluk back to grace her dinner table. Alas, after going in and out of several shops there, she had to leave empty-handed and disappointed.
She had been disappointed once before when all the postman delivered to her front door was a letter from the Customs to say that they had confiscated the bottle of precious cincaluk that her mother attempted to post.
But she wasn’t about to give up, or rather her hormones dictated that the normally intelligent and reasonable person with a pretty sensible head properly screwed onto her shoulders, shouldn’t give up.
These hormones can make a Jekyll and Hyde out of the most placid person on earth. They can change tastebuds overnight, making a meat-loving person into a vegetarian and cause a normally diet-conscious person to throw caution to the wind and eat stuff that she would usually throw out the window. They can reduce a professional and tough decision-maker into a weeping wreck or a monster just because she can’t get what she craves for.
I could certainly identify with these people. During my first pregnancy, I cried buckets because I couldn’t get the correct mee goreng mamak — correct being the way it was cooked by the mamak pushing his cart at exactly 5pm along Light Street in Penang.
I sulked throughout the night just because my husband mentioned salt beef and chopped liver and there was no way he could pacify me because it was already midnight. He watched helplessly as I sat crying before a container full of prawn sambal that was flown in all the way from that a particular stall in Kampung Baru, KL, but had gone off during the 12-hour flight.
During another pregnancy, attempting to make the keropok that I was craving for, he gallantly rolled up his sleeves for the culinary feat, only for it to turn out to be keropok lekor, which I totally disliked. Why couldn’t I just crave for asam boi or some pickle that could be easily obtained from Chinatown?

Sure, there have been studies to suggest that the body craves what the body lacks but why does this render one to be almost obsessive especially in the quest for the forbidden?
A friend knew what coffee beans would do to her and the baby in the womb, but throughout two pregnancies, she chewed handfuls of coffee beans as she would peanuts.
One baby turned out to be hyperactive and the other had a skin allergy although this was not conclusively linked to the coffee beans.
My eldest sister pined for duck hanging on the rack in a non-halal restaurant. All she wanted was a bite of the meat dripping with fat. This is nothing compared to the woman who ate charcoal and another who chewed pencils.
Looking at some studies carried out in attempts to explain why women had different foods cravings, I came across one conducted in Sri Lanka and published in the Indian Journal Of Public Health. A total of 1,000 women took part in the study which noted that “pregnancy cravings were significantly higher in women who married after a love affair than in those who had an arranged marriage” as well as in “women who were superstitious (e.g. believed in devil dancing) than in those who were not.”
Considering how inconsiderate and ridiculous some of the demands made on the helpless husbands are, I am inclined to support the finding linking love marriages to pregnancy cravings.
What else can explain the long journey into London and the futile search for cincaluk?

This piece was first published here.

Kak Teh's other Obsessions:

Picture from Connie Martin's.

Monday, 5 April 2010

More notes from under the duvet

The boiler seems to be on the blink again and as it is Bank Holiday here, no one can be persuaded to come and have a look at it. So the duvet seems to offer the warmest place as I oscillate from FB to Blog stopping to read news online somewhere in between; anything at all to stall my long overdue article from completion. 

I must admit that I have been lured back to FB, a place I swore I'd never put a foot in again. A friend suggested that I reactivate my account to retrieve some photographs from her and once I pressed the button, there was no turning back.  There I discovered the place where friends congregate: friends who had been slowly disappearing from my comment box and from my beloved rantauan.com: a virtual village which was once ringing with laughter over pantun wars, is now quiet. Initially, I had problems putting names to faces as in FB most except Mekyam, use their real names. 

I found old classmates and I even found my mother!!!  My nephews and nieces, siblings and relatives are there as well. Our family members used to meet up in www.myfamily.com but some bright spark decided that FB is a more convenient place to meet.  She even ghosted my mother's account!

And guess who else I met there?  Our wedding photographer!! Zubir, or Tok Bet as he is affectionately known, is an old family friend who is related to my brother-in-law and by marriage, related to Puteri Kama.  FB is indeed a small world.  Being in touch with him brought back memories of that fateful day - 9th December 1979.  Tok Bet is almost a brother to us, bunking in with my brother most nights when we were living in Yan.  After our simple bersanding, he ushered us to the bedroom for the standard 'sitting on the bed' pose.  The room wasn't big enough for him to move around, and as he walked backwards to get a good picture, he tripped backwards into the bathroom!!

The virtual world, through all these social networking sites, is forever interested to know what we are doing, what we are thinking.  I wonder why.  So, in a haste, and still procrastinating over the article I am supposed to write, I wrote: ZO's dilema: should I write for blog or cari makan?  This prompted quite a few suggestions. 

Now, I had considered myself quite a veteran in this cyberworld, but it never ceased to amaze me how the online written word could be misconstrued and misinterpreted.  What I had in my head and transfered onto the page, was not what was received.  My dilema was whether I should write an entry for the blog or to write a piece for the newspaper.  Nevertheless, its quite an interesting study of how a written word is read and perceived.  I had failed to convey what was in my head at that point in time.

And as you can see, the blog wins hands down and I will now write to cari makan.

Over and out.

Kak Teh's also wrote from under the duvet here:

Notes from under the duvet

Thursday, 1 April 2010

One Spring Morning in the life of a Mak Cik in London

It wasn't the kind of spring morning that one would like to get up to.  Given the choice, you know where I'd rather be.  The promised sunshine never came but instead more forecast of gloom and even doom.  I left the house well before eight, the spirit somewhat lifted only by the sight of pretty yellow daffodils by the front door. And with that and Wordsworth's ryhmes playing in my head in no particular order, I made my way to the station this spring morning sans any spring in my steps whatsoever! I was about to start the day without ryhme or spring.

(Cue violin)

Oh, daffodils, is it really spring when all I feel is perpetual autumn with the onset of permanent winter?  (Ignore this)

The station seemed a long way away and as I passed the green, the empty green, I imagined poor Sofyen playing football with the local boys, my Taufiq included.  At 15, his life was cruelly taken away by a group of schoolboys and girls who attacked him at Victoria Station last week. 

I passed by Betsie's but no cheerful hello from her as she must be in bed still under her comfortable duvet.  Eventually, after what must have been a thousand hours, I made it, swiped my Oyster and climbed up the steps. The tube was crowded and my plan to read was aborted as I didn't have a f ree hand to hold an open book.  No one looked up from their free Metro newspaper or their Blackberries and Iphones, to offer this Mak Cik a seat.  Self pity was fast setting in.  If, by the time I reached Nottinghill Gate and still no seats, I thought, I 'd take the Circle Line, which of course is no longer a Circle Line as it doesn't go in a circle anymore. (Drat!)  And of course, still no seats (more drat!) and I stumbled out with the rest on to the platform at Nottinghill Gate and climbed more steps with more self pity setting in at full speed by the time I reached Baker Street.

I was in a foul mood by the time I saw some ray of sunshine outside the station and dodging tourists and enthusiastic parents pulling their even more enthusiastic children to join the queue at Madame Tussaude, I finally reached my destination.

Regent's Park and the serenity at that time of the morning was a world away from the madness that was about to unfold just a few streets away. Regent's Park and its early morning joggers was a welcome sight to this tired, restless mind.
Regent's Park and its ducks swimming merrily in the canal and its empty benches evoked memories of a beautiful forbidden romance. Regent's Park and its Blue Bench were silent witnesses and accomplice of two lovers who met and sat on the blue bench and contemplated their futile future together. As I crossed the bridge and scanned the place for any blue benches around, I thought of Azhar and Sarah sharing more than just a flask of coffee together during one of their many illicit rendezvous.

As I reached the corner, turning into the big building where I was to spend most part of the day, I wondered whatever happened to the couple; their marriages to their respective spouses and even the originator of the deliciously woven plots. 

Taking more steps up to the meeting room, I found myself  wishing I could come up with something  as intriguing from something as mundane as a blue bench. 

The room was still empty when I got there and sitting down, I pulled out my documents which were about to be scrutinised and torn apart during the best part of the day.

Reading the first few lines, I knew I had better keep to my day job, as the saying goes.
The Mak Cik also rambles here: