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Posts Tagged ‘eating

My life in Singapore is very lazy and indulgent. I don’t think this is a bad thing – I have been blessed with just enough Protestant work ethic to hold down a job, and I suspect that secretly we all aspire to lazing about.

There are a few tangible side-effects. I think I’m more relaxed, because I’m mentally and physically engaged with fewer things. But I also know I’m more prosperous, as the locals would say. In other words, I’m getting fatter.

This is not intended as a reassurance-seeking feminine wail: “I’m so fat, I’m so ugly, why don’t I look like the girls in the magazine?” It’s just a statement, based on the fact that clothes that used to fit me are becoming a struggle to do up.

I was slightly surprised when I noticed this – my dress-size hasn’t really changed since the end of uni, despite a lifestyle that’s never been ascetic. Pondering this in bed last night – do I buy new clothes or diet, does this happen to everyone at 30 or is it my lifestyle? – it struck me how incredibly inactive I am now.

Or rather, how active I was in London, without even noticing it. The obvious difference was that I biked everywhere. Switching my commute from bike to train dropped 5 hours of exercise every week. Then there is the lack of yoga – no more morning classes is another 4 hours lost.

But I also cycled to all sorts of places besides work, or walked. I would often walk two or three tubes stops, which seems unthinkable in Singapore. The distance would be roughly the same, but I would turn up sweaty and red, having only saved about £2 on taxi fares.

I still do about the same amount of resistance and cardio – interestingly the gym-based stuff that requires most commitment and dedication. It is all the accidental or fun stuff that has slipped, with a deficit in hours per week that is easily in double figures.

Besides barriers like heat or cheap cabs, I think my lifestyles in different places have been internally modeled differently. In London I took a strange pride in being busy – always out of the house, seeing friends, thinking nothing of leaving for work at 0640 every morning.

In Singapore, I expect a life that’s languid. There is no reason I couldn’t go to yoga before work, except that it seems impossible. Instead I lounge around at home for two hours, writing navel-gazing blog posts about how fat I’m becoming.

And indeed, how fat this post is becoming. Who’d have thought I could write so much about being lazy, especially as I only started to test whether I could render hanzi? Incidentally, the title should say hen pang, or very fat.

Right, I’m off to eat pie. Happy Mid-Autumn Moon Festival to you all!

elle xx

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Pilot review – Supperclub

A Dutch concept restaurant whose supper appeal is a fixed five-course menu, served to diners lounging on communal day beds. The club aspect comes in the form of kitsch cabaret, complete with transvestite staff and toilets assigned by homo or hetero. Exactly the kind of restaurant you’d hope to find in Amsterdam.

I’m not sure it’s quite so comfortable in Singapore. One the Saturday I went only a third of the covers were filled – sad given the staff was so lovely – and all the patrons were white. The echoing school hall feel didn’t stop me enjoying myself and the staff kept on smiling, but the saving grace should have been the food.

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Daily life

Posted on: June 7, 2009

And just like that, a quarter of a year turned into a third.

Month three was the worst so far in terms of being homesick; the fourth has certainly felt easier. I am more settled into daily life now, although my sister has pointed out that she doesn’t have much idea of what that means.

Here are the three questions she thought most pertinent:

1. Do I wear socks?
2. Do I eat chicken?
3. Do I own slippers?

These probably tell you more about her than they ever could about me, but for your delectation and delight:

1. Yes, I wear socks sometimes. When I first arrived I couldn’t imagine ever wearing anything except flip-flops and strappy summer dresses but now I wear jeans and everything, complete with shoes and socks. Only when it’s cloudy though.

(A point about the heat and weather – the air con in our living room cools the room DOWN to 26 C, which feels quite chilly when I first arrive home.)

2. I eat chicken but I hardly ever cook it. Lunch is now my main meal, eaten at one of the food centres near work, so I’m never really hungry when I get home and just eat salads or cheese and biscuits.

Favourite lunchtime chicken dishes include chicken rice and dosa. However, my sluggish European metabolism is struggling with all the carbs and the lack of veg so I’m trying to eat more packed lunches.

3. No I don’t own slippers. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given I didn’t in the UK either.

It’s customary here (as with much of Asia) to take your shoes off before going into someone’s house. I’m not sure of the exact reason (internetz has suggested respect or fung shui), but J and I have adopted the habit at our flat. Our reason is that the floors are tiled and quickly get gritty if you stomp around in outdoor shoes.

A positive aspect of this habit is that you can wear beautiful but uncomfortable shoes to house parties, safe in the knowledge that you won’t be crippled by them for too long. The downside is that it’s embarrassing if your feet smell.

So, what else do ya want to know?

Here’s a suggested itinerary. For the best results, get two lovely friends to fly into Singapore on a Tuesday evening, and out again on Wednesday evening. Remember to take the day off work!

First, stay up until 3am on Wednesday morning, drinking pink Champagne, eating wedding cake, looking at wedding photos, watching wedding videos and giggling. (NB, this part of the tour works best if one or more of you recently got married.)

Get up at 8.30am with a hangover.

9am – Pop down to the pool for 10 reviving and invigorating lengths. After four and a half lengths pretend you have finished and get in the jacuzzi. (If you’re an unfortunate soul without a pool or jacuzzi perhaps you and your friends could run around the block and then shower together. Nothing weird about that.)

10am – Head out to Clarke Quay. Catch a riverboat cruise from Sir Stamford Raffles’s landing place.

Messing about on the river

Messing about on the river

12pm – Stroll through the CBD to Lau Pa Sat. Hope to beat the lunchtime rush. Fail. Force your friends to eat carrot cake.

1pm – Become hot, bothered and too hungover to cope with the sun. Decide air-conditioned pursuits are a good idea and take a taxi to the National Museum, to see the History of Singapore exhibit.

3pm – Attempt to catch a cab to Haw Par Villa. After the first empty cab drives past, move to a better spot. Once the second empty cab fails to stop, find an official cab rank. Get in a cab and immediately get ejected by a driver who’s about to change shifts. Reject the next cab because it doesn’t take Nets. Take the next cab to your destination. Remember, don’t accept anything less than the fifth empty taxi!

Haw Par - you have to go there to really understand the craziness

Haw Par - you have to go there to really understand the craziness

4.30pm – After delighting in the absurd kitschery of 70-year-old morality statues, make your way to Raffles Hotel for obligatory cocktails. Realise that the hotel is next to the museum and that maybe the order of your itinerary is flawed. No need to say anything! Stash that map in the bottom of your bag and your guests will be none the wiser.

6.30pm – To bastardise Dorothy Parker, one martini is too many, two is never enough. Hey, you should, like, eat, or something? To the Banana Leaf!

7pm – Singapore is famous for many different dishes. If one of your guests is a recovering pescaphobe, why not pick fish head curry as the dish to showcase.

Fish head curry

Fish head curry

8.30pm – Enjoy a leisurely stroll through Little India, before returning home to pack.

9.30pm – Wave your friends off. It’s common for grit or dust to get in your eyes at this point, don’t worry if you find them watering.

Congratulations! You are now a Singapore tour guide!

Smug

Posted on: May 7, 2009

The old man leaned over while I was eating.

“You hold your chopsticks better than I do,” he confided. “How my mother tried to teach me as a child.”

I wonder how the woman would feel if she knew her standards lived on as crude illustrations on the back of chopstick wrappers.

I think this is a Japanese game that teaches kids to use chopsticks

I think this is a Japanese game that teaches kids to use chopsticks

I was quite surprised when I wrote the one week post, “Really, a week’s gone already?”, and jubilant at one month, “Wow, we’re really doing it!”

But two months passed unnoticed, caught up among making a life. Suddenly we’re more then a quarter of a year in. How did that happen?

I’m not really sure where to start filling you in. There have been a few ups and downs – hence the radio silence.

The big news is that I’m moving to a different department in my company. I was working in healthcare, but it turned out to be more medical education than creative copywriting. Once I discussed this with the firm they were amazingly supportive and I’m moving to their creative team on Monday.

I’ll be covering both health and consumer accounts, which is respectively where I’ve come from and where I want to go. Hooray!

We’ve also had a few guests, visited a few strange tourist attractions and eaten a few strange things.

Long Beach Seafood, folk - yum!

Long Beach Seafood, folk - yum!

Food highlights include black pepper crab, cooked whole in unctuous sauce and pulled apart with our hands, and Indonesian grilled fish. This is barbecued while you wait and served with sweet chilli sauce studded with birdseyes and tiny chewy fish.

Tiny mouthfuls of deliciousness

Tiny mouthfuls of deliciousness

Have also sought out xiao long bao (I believe ‘small basket dumpling’ is the literal translation). They are Shanghainese; soup, pork and crab filled, and probably manna. The Singapore version wasn’t up to the original standard, but pretty damned good.

Over the road we have a nice cheap food centre that sells north Indian food, seafood noodles and chicken rice – it’s impossible for two of us to spend more then $20 here (£9), and that’s if we have a couple of beers.

Further down the street there’s a great Indian restaurant where they’re starting to recognise us, and the next road down boasts a whole string of places selling Singapore’s infamous fish head curry (I ate an eye, I win a prize!).

Over the crossroad there’s a lovely little French place – straight off the streets of Paris, as the snails, fois gras and profiteroles attest.

The range and price of the food out here means we’ve settled into a pattern where we eat out about four times a week.

In other news, I appear to be gaining weight.

Love you all,

Elle xx

• Durian

Spiky!

Spiky!

I guess that should be sights, sounds and smells. This south Asian fruit is famous for smelling bad, to the extent that it’s banned on public transport and eaten at stalls rather than people’s homes.

Singapore SMRT sign

Singapore SMRT sign

I tried it for the first time yesterday and decided that it smells better than it tastes. The scent is one that I’ve long associated with Asia without being able to name, so perhaps for me it smells of holidays and exoticism.

The tasting was initiated by a Philipino colleague who assured me that durian is usually sweeter and generally nicer, so I guess I’ll give it another go. The texture was good – somewhere between thick custard and over-ripe avocado.

• Glory explosion!

On a lamp-post by Farrer Park MRT station

On a lamp-post by Farrer Park MRT station

I pass this sign on my way to work and it cracks me up daily. Will I ever grow up? I doubt it.