A Malaysian Blog about Food, Family and Friends – by Lyrical Lemongrass
We are led to a table beside a group of fourteen – twelve women and two men, many of them in fuchsia. Perhaps the colour doesn’t feel as old-fashioned as red. The older ladies are in red; it is hard to break away from tradition. As we partake of the stewed pork knuckles, a Chinese tune sung melodiously at soprano tones rises above the cacophony of sounds in the busy restaurant. I can tell that it is a traditional tune, although I can’t make out the words in Mandarin. My friend tells me that the song is about spring.
The voices rise in harmony. Some of the other restaurant patrons turn around to see where the sound is coming from. The ladies in fuchsia, while waiting for the next dish to arrive, continue singing from their songsheets, oblivious to the disapproving looks. My friend shakes his head and laughs nervously. The nightingales in fuchsia carry on, their sweet voices serenading me through my fatty, sticky char siew meal.
You would not believe your eyes
If ten million fireflies
Lit up the world as I fell asleep….
The loud sound of fire crackers goes off at 3 in the afternoon. I am jolted from my slumber, a pleasant dream about udon and an udon maker rudely interrupted. The sound crescendoes to a climax after fifteen minutes, and I fall back into my goose-down pillow, willing for a continuation of my dream.
It’s hard to say that I’d rather stay
Awake when I’m asleep
‘Cause everything is never as it seems
When I fall asleep….
I haven’t spent time with my friend in months, and he is back for the holidays. We agree to meet at a restaurant at Changkat Bukit Bintang. We have had enough of Chinese food for the season, and seek something different instead. A lion dance troupe makes its way up the stretch, stopping at every restaurant to bless the businesses and to bring them luck and fortune. Two hours later, the clashing of cymbals and drums compete with the music from the surrounding clubs, and all hope of conversation is lost.
Our “reunion” dinner is as Malaysian as it gets. Chinese, Indian, Malay and Lain-Lain are all represented. Days earlier, Hunky, in a drunken stupor, offers to cook prawn risotto, a recipe he has perfected over the years. We bring the yee sang. Paps makes lemon pudding for desserts. The essence of a reunion dinner is present via the creation of new traditions while upholding the old. Laughter fills the air as fireworks light up the sky with the silhouette of the Twin Towers in the background.
For a brief moment, my heart is filled with hope.
Food, for me, is a means to an end and not an end in itself.
Food, for me, represents the love of family, the fellowship of friends, and the community and communality it brings.