The mango case sat at the top of the stairs, yellow bumps flashing. I picked up one and felt the weight of a baseball. Bringing it to my upper lip, I closed my eyes, inhaled slowly and postcards of Indian beaches shuttered in my mind.
I walked to the kitchen. I got a cutting board and a cleaver. I peeled the skin. The juices smeared my fingertips and the fragrance filled my nostrils. I carefully let the peel fold into one curled strand.
The mango sat in my palm, shining like sunset light streaming through stained glass. Enclosing my fingers around its slippery body, I cut grid marks. The blade easily slid through to the seed. As I sliced against the inner stone, pieces fell on to the wood with a small plop.
I didn’t bother with a plate—or a fork. Taking a small wedge between my fingers, I dropped it on to my tongue. My teeth effortlessly pierced the golden cushion. My taste buds cheered as supple sweetness burst in my mouth. Everything went in slow motion. But after that first morsel, the view sped up like a time-capture video of clouds in the sky—except instead of white pillows moving across blue air, a hand darted in and out to steal the exotic ambrosia till it all disappeared.
There was a citywide indie arts festival when I was in Singapore. In one hallway leading to the Metro station were rows of American convicted killers' portraits paired with stark images of their last meal request.
Initiated by American photographer Jonathon Kambouris, the project made me feel unsettled and eerie. Kambouris asked the question, "How is society really served by the death penalty?"
I never met my cousin Augustus before till I visited Singapore but we bonded instantly over a shared age and love of food. He took me to the hottest club shows and the best late-night eats.
Our first early morning food adventure together was anotherZouk club night.
After a Wednesday night of highly choreographed dance moves to popular 80's tracks (Mambo nights), Agus was raring to take me for bak kut teh — pork rib soup. I wasn't one to refuse.
It was also the first time I had a barley drink before (no alcohol). I didn't like but it's supposed to be very good for you.
But the soup. Oh my. The soup (bottom right corner). It's not much to look at but one whiff and I was drowning in a haze of meaty aroma that flickered with the life of a nighttime campfire. I slurped up the broth with abandon. And I wanted more. I was like the greedy little fat kid in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, except instead of a river of milk chocolate, I wanted to fall into this river of bak kut teh.
What does this smell like?
I couldn't stop gobbling it up, inhaling it, wondering why it was so familiar yet so different from the original dish. Then it hit me.
It smelled like Montreal Schwartz's smoked meat.