When an old friend came to visit me for a week or so, we decided to make a trip to Penang, an island on the west coast of Malaysia, for a few days. Its capital, Georgetown, has not only gained UNESCO World Heritage status but also remained at the top of travel and holiday sites for a few years running. A short stay in the heritage area convinced us why it is most deserving of all its accolades.
I was told I was a really engaging baby, having a sunny disposition and smiling for everyone. Even as a youngster, I would put on performances for the family and keep those around me entertained. Somewhere along the line, maybe when hormones kicked in, I guess I stopped smiling so much, or at all. You know how some people just have a naturally smiley face - well, I’m not one of them. In fact, friends who have been brave enough to tell me to my face say that my countenance can be described by another body part, a particular lady part. I have to agree with them, my face will definitely not launch a thousand ships but probably sink them all.
Food. Nothing conjures up more tantalizing images for me. Not clothes, not jewelry, not exotic locations (unless they boast delicious local cuisine!), and certainly not sexy bods. There is a reason they call the spectacular visual presentation of food that arouses the desire to eat it food porn. Actually for me, any dish of carefully prepared and presented food, no matter how simple and humble, can be considered pornography for my taste buds.
Before I hit 50, I used to joke that in my old age I would switch to wearing relaxed fit jeans. In my fifties, I did buy a pair of what I thought were pretty comfortable jeans. They were straight cut, sat nicely on the waist and had some give. I took them along when I traveled because they were nicely worn in, hardy and didn’t require constant washing. I haven’t worn them in a while because here in the tropics, it’s just too hot to wear jeans. To my horror, when I tried them on just the other day, they were very snug!
Feeling a little under the weather over the weekend, I rummaged through my pantry, trying to figure out what I could eat to assuage a scratchy throat and the sniffles. A can of Campbell’s chicken noodle soup beckoned, usually my go-to meal when there’s nothing else to eat. But I realized that I had enough to fix myself Teochew porridge. A plain rice porridge or congee, accompanied by an assortment of side dishes, instantly made me feel better. To westerners, this might seem like an odd combo of food, but generations of Chinese have enjoyed this comfort food for both breakfast and supper.
Just a whiff of Joe and instantly I am transported to a good place. I feel equally mellowed out and elated, ready to take on anything. I’m talking about coffee, of course. A cup of fresh brewed coffee made from fragrant roasted beans, with just a touch of frothy hot milk, always puts me in a good mood. I know people, including my son, B, who don’t drink coffee. B can’t because it gives him headaches. I look upon him pityingly, because although I feel for him when he needs caffeine, life just isn’t quite worth living without coffee.
Recently, when I was on a visit to Shanghai, I seemed to see lots of old ladies out on the streets, taking a stroll together, stopping to chat, or just hanging out. Maybe it was the time of year, at the end of summer when there was a nip in the air and everyone seemed to want to catch the last warming rays of the sun. Or maybe it was just me, being acutely conscious of my impending old age and wondering who was going to be around to make the journey with me through our senior years.