Thursday, January 10, 2008

Childhood

I like meepok dry.

When I was younger, whenever I stayed over at my granny's place, the next morning, after accompanying her to the wet market, I will have breakfast with her. She usually ordered something like kweh tio mee. It was meepok tah for me. I think that was the main reason why I like staying over at her place; the morning wet market visit followed by breakfast. Sometimes I will be rewarded with a bowl of soybean curd if I was particularly helpful. Like helping granny carry her blue basket with the stainless steel handles. The handles left indentations on the fleshy forearm of my granny. Sometimes granny will randomly slip in some marketing tips. Like choosing fish - eyes must look alert, fins not broken and no fishy smell.

I don't like the smell of the wet market.

Chickens were killed on the spot if you wanted freshness. The seller will slit the throat and dump the chicken into a blue drum. Without fanfare or ceremony. You half expected a prayer or even some wincing by the seller. But hardly any emotion escaped from the faces of both the seller and the buyer. There wasn't much sound. Probably drowned out by the incessant yaks of the aunties. You could get fresh duck instead of chicken. Same treatment just different price. There is also a musky scent that lingered whenever granny led me to the area where they sold fresh pork. Mixed with the smell of fish and prawns. Salt-tinged. They were usually located adjacent to each other.

I don't like the smell but I remember it fondly.

The dried goods store had a distinct smell too. Of yellow pages. And newspaper. Because that was usually what was used to wrap the dried shrimps, ikan bilis and many other shriveled up animals. Sometimes a random store will pop up in between the store with a sari-clad indian lady selling conical heaps of reddish, ochre-ish, orangey spice powder and the store with a plump chinese auntie, a hanky tucked into the armholes of her sleeveless blouse selling canned food and preserved vegetables. Often with a coconut squeezing machine that pressed out coconut milk. You can have the fibrous remnants in a separate package. The random store could be one selling nightgowns and panties. Or an aquarium. And I will look wistfully at the terrapins. Or hope that a hamster escapes. I will then plan on how to spirit the escaped hamster away. I will feel my pockets to make sure that they were empty. Make room for the imagined brave hamster that escaped.

I like meepok dry because of my childhood. The wet market. The sleepovers at granny's.

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