Soup was my nemesis.
It was inescapable at the dinner table in my Singapore home. And the breakfast table, too, for that matter. And, sometimes, if Mum thought I looked too “heaty” (which, sadly, is hardly the saucy condition that you might imagine) and needed something with yin in it to “cool” me down, there it was at lunch as well.
A college friend likes to recall the column by Singapore humorist Colin Goh where he notes, “If Harry Potter went to school in Singapore he’d learn in potions
class that there are two kinds of potions: heaty and cooling.”
You may laugh. But it’s true — Singaporeans take these piping-hot brews very seriously. These broths featuring pork or chicken with a mish-mash of vegetables and Chinese herbs are generally concocted with the idea that they can solve some medical problem you have.
Sore throat? Impotence? That gunshot wound in your tush? No problem — just take two bowls of this and call your Mum in the morning.
Given that some of these herbs actually resembled wizened fingers or a tangle of human hair and smelled like my grandmother’s socks, however, I wasn’t too crazy about them.
But it’s funny how you suddenly crave the thing that you loathe as a child once you know it’s no longer there at your elbows, just waiting for you to push it away.
Walking through Chinatown with chef Simpson recently, we stumbled upon a basket of massive, beige root vegetables. My eyes brightened, I practically ran toward the basket, grabbing a particularly lengthy, sturdy one, speechless with excitement as I cradled it.
It had never struck me up until that very moment that this tuber bore an uncanny resemblance to a sex toy.