For the A TO Z CHALLENGE, I’m blogging for 26 days in April (except Sundays) based on the alphabet, and my theme is #foodiefiction, inspired mostly by the foods of Singapore.
M is for Mangosteens and more
Margaret would be turning forty in May and her husband Raj wanted to throw her a surprise ‘M’ birthday party. They would celebrate with all her favourite ‘M’ foods. Murtabak, Mee Siam, Mee Rebus, Meringues and Macarons, and her all-time favourite fruit, Mangosteens.
“I’m turning 40 soon,” Raj had heard her tell their next-door neighbour, “A 40th seems like it should be a nice quiet event.”
But Raj, who would be turning 40 at the end of the year, thought a 40th deserved to be celebrated with a big bash and loved ones. And started planning a party.
At first it was to be forty guests to symbolise the forty years of her life. However, their flat was far too small for that many guests. So Raj started asking around. His colleague volunteered the use of his condo’s function room, which he claimed could hold up to 100 people. This of course meant having to invite that colleague, and the 18 other people who were in his group at the office. Good thing his boss was away, otherwise that would mean inviting him and the other partners too.
“Inviting your colleagues and not hers?” He had roped in Margaret’s best friend Shen to help with the party planning. She had a good point.
Okay, so that meant another… he counted them out on his fingers till he reached ten. He looked at Shen hopefully.
She shook her head and wrote ’23’ on the list.
Well, that function room should hold all these people at least.
Then he realized that he had forgotten to include her cousins. And Margaret had a boatload of cousins.
That was one of the things he adored about her, the way she was so close to her family. His mother had died when he was in university, and about ten years ago his father had remarried, moved to Australia and didn’t seem interested in coming back, even for a visit. Margaret was all the family he had these days. He wanted all those who loved her – and there were so many – to be a part of this celebration of her 40 years of life. He had been married to her for the last three years and often wished he had known her earlier. It was odd how their paths had finally crossed so late in their lives, when they had had so many people and directions in common. They had even attended the same primary school. But it took nearly 30 years and the nagging of some mutual friends who set them up on a blind date for them to finally be together. He wanted to celebrate it all, celebrate it every day, and especially celebrate the big 4-0.
But the big M party was getting out of hand. His colleagues asked if their spouses were included, and he didn’t know if Margaret’s colleagues expected to bring their other halves too. Oh god, they probably would, wouldn’t they? And their kids too? Margaret’s cousins would probably bring their kids. There were always kids around at her family’s many gatherings. This was spiraling into mayhem. This party was starting to sound like a bigger bash than their wedding. And should a birthday party be a bigger event than a wedding? Was this even what Margaret wanted?
May 6 arrived and Margaret woke to the smell of spicy mee rebus that Raj had picked up from the nearest hawker centre.
“So what’s the plan for today?” she demanded as she wolfed down the noodles.
“It might sound silly but I planned an ‘M’ day for you. We’ll start off with some murtabak for lunch, followed by a stroll around the museum, catch an early movie, then some mutton soup for dinner with plenty of mangoes and mangosteens for dessert.”
“You bought me mangosteens!! Where are they?” Margaret jumped up and started poking around the kitchen.
“Or you could just skip straight to the mangosteens and forget the rest,” said Raj.
Later, as Margaret cracked open the dark purple shell of a mangosteen, she said, “I could have sworn you were planning some kind of mad party. But mangosteens are all the madness I can deal with right now.”
Mee rebus is literally ‘boiled noodles’ in English, and is a dish of egg noodles in a thick spicy gravy, served with firm tofu, sliced chilies, bean sprouts and lime. It’s a popular breakfast in Singapore. If you haven’t eaten a mangosteen before, oh, you are missing out. They have a rather woody shell and creamy soft sweet flesh. So good. Apparently they are difficult to cultivate outside of the tropics, which explains the lack of existence in Northern California, although I have seen it in the freezer of some Asian supermarkets. I highly doubt that frozen ones are any good though.
Also, wow I had a hard time coming up with this one. I toyed around with so many different M words, even writing a story told from the perspective of a mangosteen (that was a mistake). I’ve just finished the story, some 1.5 hours before it goes to post, which is the latest so far that I’ve done this! Definitely struggling here and wondering if my theme of food-related stories was too specific. Oh well. Now to figure out what my ‘N’ word is to be.