giovedì, gennaio 13, 2011

You're the condensed milk in my coffee

Singapore gave me the best culinary week of my life; fuckin' beautiful memories, and a real motivation to keep my job so I can make more trips there on the company dime, and hopefully eat much, much more. Also would like to reserve the option of moving there for work if the F-word ever dumps me. Australia is good in many ways but if I can't have him I at least want fuckin' unlimited Asian food, and this place, as mentioned, is so. Goddamn. Caker.

(And Australians care about food the way cakers do, which is, they fuckin' don't. Their national dish is fuckin' 'meat' pies whose fillings are guaranteed to be at least 25% flesh, and if there's anything less fucking suitable for this climate than those disgusting little hockey pucks, it's roast lamb - the other national dish. And don't get me started on their fucking desserts; if all you saw of Australia was its dessert tray you'd reckon you were at a fuckin' church social in the Hebrides or one of the poorer parts of Scandinavia after the local Nokia factory packs up and moves to China. Well. Anyways. The Australian cities are apparently way better, with enough Asians and olive-skinned types in them to get to that critical mass where the food is really good, like in Toronto or Vancouver. But being babied and cosseted in Singapore after the annoyances of Brussels, etc., may have ruined me for any other urban conglomeration.)

Anyways again. Now is not the time to speculate on Plan Bs in the event the love of my life breaks my fuckin' heart and consigns me to a cold-hearted but pleasure-saturated life of lascivious gluttony, wherein I jog along the sterilised beach all morning so as to eat all afternoon and get a little work done in the evening in a country where almost everybody loves food as much or more than I do. Now is the time to tell you that one of the more tangible gifts Singapore gave me is putting condensed milk into my coffee - I thing I learned from the Vietnamese restaurant close to my boss's old office, Viet Express, which is one of only two restaurants I made two trips to during the week, it being so fucking good*.

The Spanish do something similar, I know, though I didn't try it when I was there - a cafe bonbon or bombom or however you say 'candy' in Spanish, which is half espresso, half condensed milk. At the Viet Express, they served a sort of strong, espresso-ground drip coffee, with a dose of condensed milk next to it - not quite half/half but almost. As for me, I just add a big oozing tablespoonful of condensed milk to the equivalent of three shots of espresso and that makes my afternoon fucking magnificent. The coffee gets exactly the right sweetness with an added caramel velvetiness. I recommend it strongly if you're a sugar-in-your-coffee sort of person.

*The other was the Thanying Restaurant, a fucking delectable Thai restaurant in Amara hotel which honestly - my family's finer efforts excepted - debatably served me the best food I've ever eaten. Ever. And I have eaten a lot of food. We took a business contact there for lunch and I nearly died of pleasure, so I took the F-word back in the evening. Going there also gave my boss the chance to deliver one of the funniest bits of attempted cultural education I'd heard since 2003: "Thai people are the nicest, warmest, gentlest people in the world, until they start hitting you."

mercoledì, gennaio 12, 2011

The waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flavour

I don't know if I mentioned but a few months ago I dreamt there was a blight on garlic; that almost overnight, all of the fucking garlic in the world shrivelled up and rotted away, and the fucking day dawned bleakly on shops emptied of their fucking garlic. It was the closest I've ever come to encompassing an idea of Armageddon in my head, and I spend a lot of time thinking about Amageddon, and I actually woke up screaming. It was one of those nightmares where you wake up believing it's real, and you have to sort of come to realize how unlikely it is, how somehow the world is still turning around you, etc., so it must have been a dream . . . and then gradually calming down. Previous to that, I think I'd only had those sorts of nightmares about having murdered someone.

Anyways, the F-word and I had a good laugh about what fucked up priorities I have if I'm having a fucking brutal nightmare about something so unlikely. And then we moved to Australia, and the fucker started flooding, and the other day we went to a huge grocery store and THERE WAS NO FUCKING GARLIC. Nor was there any at the grocery store on the other side of the shopping centre*. It's because of the fucking floods. The farmers can't get the garlic dry enough to ship. And for the first time in my life I had a vision of what it's like when your nightmares come true, it was like a fucking slasher movie.

There's still no garlic if you're unlucky, because Australians are awfully rah-rah-rah in a hideously cringeworthy way about things being made in Australia (although all the garish nationalistic labelling on the products has those sorts of vague, Body-Shop-"Against Animal Testing" type compositions that mean nothing, like "Proudly Operated in Australia!", which could just mean that an Australian truck driver takes the product from the port to the supermarket), so the stores haven't just buckled and ordered it from China like everyone fuckin' should.

It is bloody horrible. Bloody horrible.

*Australians have two principal supermarkets, Coles and Woolworths, basically indistinguishable in terms of prices and product range, which each occupy opposite sides of almost all the shopping centres, and are both fucking overpriced suck factories, and then they call this thing that walks, quacks and fucks like fuckin' cartel "choice".

domenica, gennaio 09, 2011

Spending money

Uggggggh. I hate spending money, and we're spending so much of it getting set up here. It is fucking painful. The only way I can reconcile myself to it is by spending the bare minimum humanly possible to get exactly the things I want without going to Ikea, and it's at times like this I realize how important it is to have a life partner who has the same priorities as you beyond simply the lots-of-high-quality-orgasms (both cheapskates, both sybarites, both Ikeaphobes). We went into one store three times today, and went on a 40 minute drive in the pounding rain to pick up a Freecycle offering. All of the other men I've ever carnivally intercoursed with would have spasmed with impatience.

This is the first Ikea-free house I'll have lived in, by the way, since leaving my parents' home, which is still Ikea-free. I don't object to Ikea in principal if I think about it rationally, and considering how fucking expensive Australia is, it would probably make a lot of financial sense for us to go on an Ikea run. But I find it such a draining, miserable consumer experience to go there; I feel so anticipated somehow, which you'd think would be a good thing but somehow it isn't.

And less rationally and more emotionally, I do object to Ikea in principal. It's this sort of vision of a Soviet Russia without shortages . . . they might not be starving you, but they've still murdered all the mencheviks and are betraying and undermining international anarcho-syndicalists at every turn.

Not to mention they won't knock off $30 or $40 if you haggle. I've never considered myself a haggler but living in Australia now, it seems that I am. I never buy a big ticket item without asking for a discount because of some insignificant flaw, offering to pay in cash or asking for delivery to be chucked into the ticket price. So far it's worked, of course. It's like getting laid. Everybody wants to strike a deal, you just have to make it clear you're on the table. Or something.

But apparently, from discussions I've been having, women don't try to get prices down here. I hope the people who've been telling me that are wrong because that's crazy. But I've been told there's some sort of social conditioning going on involving a strong, strong desire not to seem like a cheapskate, and it just being sort of rude and forward to ask.

When we decided to come here, the F-word and I would warn each other often that moving back to an Anglo-Saxon country, we'd have to stop being rude Eur0-style cunts who drop their money on the counter, don't respect other people's personal space, and get pushy when they're crowded - you know - the normal social behavior of urban Europeans.

But one thing we're grateful for that we picked up in Europe, where it is a truth universally acknowledged and borne out in the unfriendly, unobsequious behaviour of salespeople, is an understanding that salespeople are not your friends and you don't have to pretend they are. They want you to pay a lot, and even to buy things you don't need; you want the opposite. Your relationship, by its very nature, is an oppositional one, and they are certainly haggling with you, if they're doing their job well.