It was an impromptu date in an unassuming restaurant, which I have seen plenty in Singapore but never in Melbourne.
For the lack of pretentiousness alone, I knew it would be a treat to eat at Soi 38. A place I have been wanting to go to since last year, but no-thanks to Covid and whatnot, it only happened this week.
Soi 38 is located inside a Wilson Parking carpark in Melbourne CBD area. I made a booking for 6.15 PM (booking is highly recommended) at 5.45 PM and went to The Paperback bookshop to spend time there while waiting for Fafa who had a gym class.
At 6.30 PM, we have put our order in: Thai BBQ set, Thai iced tea, coconut juice, Som Tum as the entree and my fave mango sticky rice dessert. The BBQ set came with various meat and seafood, noodles, vegetables and a single egg—all to be cooked on the tabletop bbq stove.
To say I was delighted would be an understatement.
The food, dipped in their homemade Thai sauce, was delicious. And the crowd was interesting. That evening, the place was bursting with diversity, from suit-wearing business people to pierced belly flashing student.
I will come back again, bring all my friends and recommend Soi 38 to anyone.
I have always associated the Ten of Pentacles with family.
From having a family gathering, throwing a party and inviting your family or at the least celebrating the fact of having made it in life seen from your family or community standard. Those are pretty close to the traditional interpretation of the Ten of Pentacles: financial security, family, legacy and stability (for me, stability relates closely to family).
In the classic Rider Waite Smith tarot deck, the Ten of Pentacles depicted by three generations sitting in the courtyard with a castle in the background. It shows prosperity — excessively.
Echoing a few tarot readers sentiments, I too have a qualm with the classic image of the card. Firstly, why there is only an older man? If it’s of three generations, where is the older woman? Did she die? Why the young-ish couple’s body language doesn’t exude warmness? Why are they being showered by the coins? Are they purposely flaunting their wealth? If yes, yikes! And lastly:
If it’s a family celebration, where is the food??
Btw, I haven’t done deep-dive study nor worked enough with the Ten of Pentacles, but these are the questions that keep coming up when I see the Ten of Pentacles in Rider Waite Smith tarot deck.
Whenever I pull the Ten of Pentacles, the introvert in me paused. Yes, yay for a good-omen card! Yay, for completion but…
What if I don’t feel like celebrating with people today?
Because sometimes – well, most of the times – a celebration for me involves some me-time. I also most likely treat myself first as a reward for having tick-off my goals or having “made-it”. And those activities carry more of the Nine of Pentacles’s energy than the next card in the deck.
It also makes me wonder whether it means introverts journey stops at the Nine of Pentacles just because that’s where our happy place is? That doesn’t seem fair, does it?? After all, we also work as hard as our more social counterparts. We also deserve to obtain the 10th coin, but you know, in our own terms.
So you can imagine my delight when I saw the Moon Void Tarot deck depiction of Ten of Pentacles – which I draw during my morning ritual. The Ten of Pentacles here is seen from the vantage point of the slightly opened gates (adorned by carvings of pentacles), in front of it laid a beautifully tended garden leading to the front door of a house (more of a bungalow than a house, it’s Ten of Pentacles after all).
All tens are about completion, and the introvert in me relate more entering my own home at the end of a very eventful ten cards worth of journey instead of partying it up with the extended family in the piazza flashing our wealth to all the passersby.
Also, it’s nice to think that the Moon Void Tarot deck gave the choice of what’s-behind-the-door entirely to us. It can be just Netflix and stacks of books, or your cat, or your just partner or your entire family waiting for you to share a meal, or a coven of witches, heck even a full-on party. Giving the nod to your perception of “family”.
As for the interpretation of the card in regards to my day today? Well, it was pretty straight forward, we accepted a last-minute invite to our friends’ home for a cozy evening gathering. There was plenty of food.
I went to Gyoza Gyoza for a dinner and catch-up with Viv last Friday.
Full disclosure: I didn’t even have the courteous to wait for her before starting to put the food order once I sat down in their Melbourne Central branch. In my defense, it has been a crazy workday, and I had to skip lunch hence I was famished. I did apologize to her. Halfway eating my grilled miso rice — with both hands, making a mess of myself — no doubt making her feel second-hand embarrassment, I realized this place might just be my favorite chain restaurant in Melbourne (Hoka Hoka Bento in Jakarta and Sakae Sushi in Singapore).
They have delicious tapas-style Japanese food. From edamame, yakitori, takoyaki to miso soup. And their drinks are delicious. So are the desserts.
I have lots of good memories in Gyoza Gyoza. I have been here with Fafa, I think twice with Jik and at least one time by myself. Clearly, it’s my go-to place for comfort food. Their price range from single-digit but doesn’t mean that they are cheap because you tend to eat a lot here.
I looked at the caller ID on the phone. Amma. “What do you want me to cook for you?”
I smiled even though I knew she wouldn’t be able to see it from across the ocean. She had asked the same question a hundred times before. To which I gave the same answer, my favorite has always been the same, a famous local dish from the region she grew up in: “prawn curry“. Then I added, “but, let’s cook it together this time“. I anticipated a “Why?” but it never came. Good. The answer to that particular why weighs heavily on my world and I rather put it in writing here than explain it to her.
It all started when a friend, who lost her mother, shared her regrets. One of them was her struggle to “cook like mom” for her grieving family. How, even though she could remember some of the ingredients, some of the recipes and some of the methods, none of them was enough. Enough to bring the same taste to the same plates, served at the same dining table to the same people.
Her words woke up my own demon who whispered into my ear as I lay in the bed, asking me “what would my regrets be?”
The answer? Infinite.
One of them, the same as my friend, would be the fleeting taste of Amma’s cooking. Even though she had given enough advice to last me seven reincarnated lives, Amma had never taught me to cook, because I was never interested. That night, unable to sleep, I decided that it needed to change when I flew home next.
The day I reached home, I was greeted by the smell of exotic spices filling the air and a warm bowl of prawn curry on the table. I half-heartedly complained that I wanted to learn to cook it, but was secretly glad I didn’t have to right after the long flight.
The next day I used a different approach in the effort to capture the fleeting taste: I made her write the complete recipe with foolproof detail.
“Why don’t I dictate it for you so you can write it in English?” she complained. “No, Bahasa Indonesia is fine, but I want you to write it” I replied. She complied and passed me the paper with “make sure you cook it otherwise you just wasted my time!“
Putting her note in the recipe box, I promised her I would. In fact, I told her, I plan to fill the box with other recipes from her, my friends, and even my own. It will be a sort of artifact to summon love and support from women in my life, including myself. She laughed and air-quoted “cooking rice” is not a recipe.
Ha! She doesn’t know that I can boil pasta too!
The day I flew back to Melbourne she hugged me tightly, enveloping me with the warmth of her love. How I wish I could put that motherly love into the recipe box and keep it with me forever.
That’s when I realized it wouldn’t be her cooking that I would truly miss, but the love she put into cooking the food for me. That, even though I have the original blueprint inside my recipe box, it will still be a fleeting taste.
Memento Mori. A reminder that we all will die one day.
We all know that, don’t we?!
So, why do we need a reminder for that? Because sometimes we go through life as if we are immortals; standing at the edge of danger for a perfect selfie, accumulating money in multiple currencies, carrying the emotional baggage instilled by a distant aunt more than twenty years ago.
Hence, the age-old variation of the regrets-on-the-deathbed question. As someone who’s more than a little curious about death, I have thought about this plenty. At some point in your life, I am sure you have too.
But how about the other side of the coin?
Have you ever thought about the things you won’t care about when you are in the last seconds of life?
Things that are occupying space in the brain, things that we think a lot about, things which probably are not going to cross the mind on the deathbed?
I pondered about this question over the weekend and realized that I won’t be thinking about food in the last seconds of life.
As someone who plans the daily schedule around food, marks the beginning of romantic relationships with the moment food was shared and has an ever-growing to-eat list, the realization bummed me out a little. Unless a certain percentage of people in this world are right about heaven and it has an unlimited amount of peeled grapes I can eat there while watching TV.
Speaking of TV, though I spend an embarrassing amount of time watching embarrassingly titled TV shows (Deadly Women, Scandal, Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23 — to name a few), I don’t think I will be thinking about my Netflix subscription on the last seconds of my life either.
If you think that the early realization above is a reminder for me that there are better things to focus in life other than being a couch potato, then you are wrong! Because I know I won’t be thinking about books as well.
Not about the piles of unread books scattered around the house, the urgent desire to reorganize my bookshelf that resurfaces with the changing of the season, and the constant nagging whenever I pick a semi-familiar book in the bookstore and wonder whether I already purchased the book and kept it in the bookshelf at my parents. Nor of my bookworm’s dream of building a bookshelf in the bathroom consisting of only waterproof books and build a house that looks like a book (– and filled with books).
I won’t even remember feeling guilty for buying overpriced books at the airport even though on the 1st of January every single year, I make a new year resolution of not doing it anymore. And If I am dying anytime soon, the slip up of buying 11 books at Changi Airport during a short layover last year, won’t even come into mind.
The airport talk reminds me that, if I am being honest, I won’t be thinking about traveling as well, something that I constantly think, plan, and obsessed about throughout my adult life (even now, while I am typing this, I have Skyscanner open in another window tab, you know just in case Victoria opens its’ border by end of the year).
Also, hello, no one knows where they will be “traveling” to the afterlife, so why bother?
The good thing is that I should not also think about flying, more specifically, my irrational fear of flying which usually creeps in a few days before I travel (assuming that my last seconds of life is not inside a plane that is crashing). Not thinking about flying also means I won’t go through my friends’ faces in my mental Rolodex of whose message I “forgot” to reply nor replaying the moment when I yelled back at my mom back in 1997 which I haven’t apologized for.
Another thing that I gladly won’t think about is: adult-ing and all the responsibility that comes with it, such as staying in a job long enough before it’s acceptable in the CV to leave, keeping some of the money earned after giving both the government and AMAZON Prime a huge chunk of it and keeping the house acceptable clean to show my parents that as a 30-something grown-up woman, I actually can survive without their supervision.
On the contrary, I am truly saddened by the thought of not thinking about my blogs. The only thing I slogged on and powered through the winter cold (with the help of my cheap electric blanket) continuously, the one I come home to after a busy day at work to “nurture”, that make me skip hanging out with friends and lost my sleeping hours for. Theses blogs are my joy and pride, but if I am being really honest, I don’t think I will be thinking about it. This realization is kind of devastating because the blogs are what I have closest to a child or at least a pet.
Wait, that’s not true!
I do have something else that is closest to a pet for me. Something that I keep at home and Instagram-ed regularly. Something that I worry about when I travel, therefore, pass to friends to take care of while I am away. Something I fed, talk to, and named. The house plants.
And I am sure I won’t be thinking about it either. They are hard to take care of and I am happily won’t use my remaining thoughts not thinking whether I have watered Carrie, Samantha, and Charlotte that week. And hopefully, by then, I already made peace with murdering the majority of them (including Miranda) by either over-watering or under-watering.
On the note of obsession, even though I am utterly obsessed with true crime and have gone so far to form friendships based on the other parties’ knowledge about the serial killers’ full names and regularly googling their mug shots using an office computer, it’s safe to say that I won’t be using the last oxygen being an armchair detective. Nor will I think about my crystals collection, Japan (unless I get to be lucky enough to live and die there one day), and many other things I am borderline obsessive about.
At first, I thought it would be hard to identify what is it that I won’t think about on my last seconds of life, but soon after I realized that almost nothing occupies my mind today, this week nor this year matters then. And that the ones I will think about are a few button taps away. So I picked up the phone and spent the rest of the weekend FaceTime-ng with them.
What about you, what are the things you won’t care about when you are in the last seconds of life?
After having a low-ball day yesterday, we decided to start our reset day in Osaka with MOS Burger breakfast. I have been a fan of MOS Burger ever since my Singapore days. And I always order the same thing in any MOS Burger, from Gold Coast to Osaka: Yakiniku rice burger. It’s the best!
With our tummy full, we went to Tsutaya Starbucks.
Fafa wanted to drink matcha latte, meanwhile I had a few postcards to be written.
We then went to Grand Front Osaka and hand a very delicious izakaya-style lunch and got pretty drunk with sake. We then went to Kinokuniya in the same building, disappointingly it had no English language books.
Tired, we had a pit stop at Nana Cafe.
On the way back to hotel, we got our white strawberries cake each. After resting for a while, we went to Ichiran Ramen chain in Namba for dinner.
Our last stop for the day was Life Convenient Store to stock up on various Japanese snacks.
I have been in Singapore for almost a day now, and I realized that I don’t miss it as much as I thought I did. I could tolerate the humidity and heat. Even though after some time, it felt like having an electric blanket covering me all the time. But I didn’t miss the food as much as I thought I would. There was no ahhhh moment of eating things today.
Lunch was at Gandhi’s which of course is delicious, but Melbourne has spoiled me with excellent service and a good standard that eating by the toilet on a slippery floor while the staffs kept ignoring you nor making any effort to acknowledge you felt not worth it. Same goes at the Anandha Bhavan, my favourite place to get Appam dessert in Little India.
I feel a bit unappreciated by Singapore. The no feeling, no enjoyment, no appreciate felt loudly empty, politely abusive and softly killing. Gah!! I spent the day going to the bank, then to the temple and then went shopping for my wedding saree, before spending more than an hour in a gold shop, of course, being ignored by the staff there.
If you were on the death row, what would your last meal be?
I reread the Skyped message that popped on my desktop screen.
It was from Pedro.
If it was anyone else, my reaction would either be “WTF” or “hu?”.
But coming from him, the question was as normal as a “Good morning“.
That’s how he usually greets me every day; with a question, more often than not, with bizarre ones. After all, our friendship is strongly based on life’s morbidness. We celebrate death, worship Kali, discuss heartbreaks, and quiz each other on serial killers trivia.
This is not an easy question to digest first thing in the morning.
I know that my last meal needs to be epic.
The thing is, I have way too many dishes I love so much; from Singaporean chicken rice, Indonesian nasi Padang to Indian dosa.
After wasting a good chunk of the working hour, I typed my answer.
I told him that if I were to face the death penalty (hopefully for doing something semi-heroic) my last meal would be a South Indian crab masala thali meal.
Then, I asked what would his last meal be. He replied almost immediately. Looked like he had put enough thoughts on this beforehand. “Vatapa”.
I remember Vatapa.
Pedro told me about Vatapa in the first week we were introduced. That time, out of sudden, he declared that he was missing his favorite Brazilian food and then proceed to show me this Vatapa picture.
I also remember thinking how it looked like my favorite prawn sambal, a widely loved Indonesian dish originated from the Sumatra region. I told him to bring back something next time he goes back to Brazil.
The last meal question lingers in my mind.
I wonder what would others choose, so I texted Fafa. Thankfully, he, too, is well versed with my cuckoo side, no explanation required.
At first, he said anything that his mom cooks. Well, that’s not how this works my friend! Otherwise, we all would choose our mom’s cooking. I told him his mom wouldn’t want to visit him after he committed such a heinous crime. He then settled with meen pollicithu with Kerala rice thali meal. Yum! I wouldn’t mind sharing his last meal.
Aww, the thought of couple’s last meals, how romantic.
With some more minutes to kill before home time, I pinged Manda, and asked her the same question. After giving a few judgy remarks, she replied with: sashimi for entree, hawker food as the main course, creme brulee for dessert, and a glass of mojito to wash it all off.
Damn, she is fancy! Especially when I thought she would settle for just laksa.
Then again, she had a point, why would I deprive myself of the pleasure of dessert and alcohol, my two life vices (among many), if it’s going to be my last meal?!
I pinged Pedro back to clarify that I would also have mango sticky rice for dessert and a bottle of Moscato as my last meal’s drink.
Loads of white rice and copious amount of wine. Yep. Seemed legit both for epic last meal and as the title of my memoir.
11 days and 999 pictures later, I am back from Japan!
We touched down in Melbourne yesterday morning and I spent the whole day recuperating from the long and tiring plane rides back home. Between then and now, I have had Nasi Lemak (Singapore Airport), Briyani, spicy Szechuan chicken, a copious amount of lavender tea, a large flat white, a bowl of pho, and pasta puttanesca.
Those things combined with the icy cold weather and back to back meetings at work, I am finally grooving back into the daily routines.