Saturday, July 28, 2012

Passionate about passiflora (or just markisa)

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who thought herself possessing just a a little more than imagination than was the usual allocation for girls her age.

She danced amongst fairies, leaped with brownies, and hid with elves among branches of the cherry tree behind her mother's house. If she could have climbed the starfruit tree or the big caramai (otherwise known as Phyllantus Acidus or else West India gooseberry) tree at her grandmother's house, she would have without hesitation. Unfortunately what her mind wanted to do, her physical prowess disallowed. She had to content herself listening, when she was at her grandmother's, not without longing, to the free spirits giggling behind the leaves and branches of those trees from the sturdy safety of her grandmother's balcony. The branches called to her. They were just out of reach even if she stretched really really far.

One day, she heard of a fruit called markisa, and learned almost at the same time, it's other name, passionfruit. She imagined, a few moments later, how Markisa would be like, in girl-form. She would have flaming orange runaway curly hair, millions of freckles across her nose bridge and she would laugh often and easily. She did everything with an intensity that was captivating. She was scary angry when she got mad. She would collapse into a heap in tears when sad. Her heart would break more often than the average person, at things that caused only mild curiosity in most. Markisa would make a very good companion and she would definitely be most exciting to be around.

She and Markisa became fast friends. They played, fought, argued and supported each other through everything. Weeks became months became years. Then she became busy with 'whatever'. And had less and less time to spend with Markisa. Markisa being Markisa, became violently upset and not a little hurt. She screamed. She yelled. To the no avail. The girl had gotten busy with 'everything else'. So Markisa stopped visiting the little girl, who was not so little anymore. The little not-so-little girl did not notice that Markisa no longer came around. The years turned into decades. Markisa was forgotten.

Recently, she met Markisa again. For real. Markisa is round and red. She has lots of freckles, not millions but enough. The once upon a time little girl, smiled. She recognised Markisa from that time and said hi. Markisa said hi back. And they became friends again.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Fishy Tales from Bukit Tinggi and Kota Kinabalu

 I was a little stupefied when the waitress brought out our fish - the fish in the picture. Of course our cameras came out immediately.  Followed by at least 2 minutes of pictures of said fish taken from every imaginable angle. 

We had ordered fried fish but I never expected it to come out with such an alive but dead look.  I imagine the cook must have netted it out of the tank (or pond) alive and dunked it alive and (figuratively) kicking into boiling hot oil in order to achieve this alive one second, dead the next pose.

The fish did turn out quite delicious but still my favorite type of fish is grilled. 

The way we used to have it every Sunday when I was much (much) younger. On the beach - with the sun going down and the surf coming in. Well, no, not really. It was usually lunch by the beach - the fish grilled over wood fire especially for lunch.  We had our own spot on the beach under one of the huge Casuarina trees dotting the perimeter of the beach.  And as it was on private land, we never had problems with crowds. 

After helping my mum gather the (unknown name for the moment - Doingin in Kadazan) leaves to wrap the fish in for grilling, my sisters and I would run off to the water to play mermaids until the next time she called. Then it's hot rice with sizzling fish time! I love lime juice from a single lime wedge drizzled on my fish. 

OMG. Food heaven on earth. Nuff said.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Some ghosts can never be buried.

This is not a post about food. It's about dealing with death. I experienced my first encounter with death when I was about 3 weeks past my 9th birthday on 06.06.76. Or at least I can't remember any deaths before that.

I feel like talking about it after reading this article.  The author describes his reaction upon hearing about the infamous plane crash that practically wiped out the newly formed Sabahan ministerial cabinet. The writer was 9 then, the same age I was.


My mother was especially agitated. She was moody and when she spoke, her voice was shrill. I sensed a crisis but what it was I had no idea. I could hear the despair in her voice, then anger, then grief then distraught. What could have evoked such powerful and desperate emotions in her? As the morning wore on, I found out. She broke down more often, wailing, calling out my uncle's Kadazan name.

Joinod! Joinod! Why do you have to leave us so soon? It was the most awful heart wrenching plea I had ever heard.

Uncle Peter was her older brother. I had always thought of him in the abstract - as a good looking charismatic Kadazan leader. And now he was also a newly appointed minister. I heard about him - about how he was going to do great things for our community.  I didn't actually know what those things were but and in my mind I thought he could perform magic. It was like we had got on an aeroplane and were ready to take off to a wonderful future. He was this larger than life person, able to sweep and carry one along on his wave of can do.


The next thing I remember is being at a funeral service or perhaps it was a wake. Not sure what exactly. Not sure where exactly. My grandmother was there. And I was totally unprepared for what I saw. She was in hysterics. I had never seen her like that and never would again. Wailing inconsolably, she struggled against her friends who were spoke kind words, held her back. I imagined if not for them, my grandmother would have flung herself across her son's coffin, beat upon it and torn her hair out. Her cries, her plea, the same as those uttered by my mother, rang in my ears and filled my heart. I wanted to shut my eyes and cover my ears.


To this day, each time I read of 666, I hear my grandmother's anguished wails for a son gone too soon so suddenly, and see her struggling against her patient resilient friends. And I pray that I will never have to know such sorrow.