Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Gulai Lemak Pucuk Labu

The dark clouds hang low over the eastern sky. They have been gathering there for a couple of weeks now but the long awaited rain is still nowhere to be seen. The weather forecaster simply reads; 'Light shower is expected here and there in late afternoon' ... very unconvincing. Sometimes I think we have become too secular that we refer to the weather as quoted by the weather forecast. Perhaps I would feel more comfortable if it reads; Light shower is expected in the late afternoon, InsyaAllah... (I wonder if there was weather forecast on UAE or Suadi's tvs?, and whether they say InsyaAllah)

On ANZAC day I sacrificed my warmth 3-layered doonas with the freezing cold wind in my backyard. The 'light shower' was finally here. The late summer rain which brought some hailstorms into Canberra in February has turned my backyard into a savanna grassland (We sometimes imagine that our 2 cats are a leopard and a panther) Something good did happen though. Some pumpkin seedlings sprouted out of my compos. They grow lush and wild. It's too late for pumpkin but I let it grow anyway, hoping that I could pick up the shoots and make 'gulai lemak pucuk labu'. ...Hemmm... Gulai Lemak Pucuk Labu.

I'm also watching my 2 survival pumpkins growing bigger by the days. My very first pumpkins since I was 10 growing up on the rich soil of Tanjung Karang where anything you throw out of the window would turn into sweet juicy fruits or vegetables six months later (of course, discounting my red Johnson shoe or my kekabu doll handsewn by mum thrown out of the window by my big brother) I thought my mum cooked the best gulai lemak pucuk labu. Why shouldn't she? We had fresh coconut, organic pumpkin and pumpkin shoots.

I thought my mum was the best cook in the world until I went down south to live with some 300 or so girls from different parts of the country. That was when my taste buds started going haywire. Sometimes we had this meeting with our caretaker whom we called "matron". She was quite scary. Somehow, it was my first introduction to 'democracy'. During these meetings we got to elect our dorm committee, supper-room and dining committee etc. We could also voice out our grievances. Some seniors complained that the fried chicken tasted like plastic and the uniforms we sent to the laundry were shrunk and too crisp they cut our arm pits. I did not bother much about these meetings though, as I ate whatever was served and I looked forward particularly to the Wednesday lunch menu - nasi putih, gulai lemak pucuk labu, anak selar goreng and sambal tumis ikan bilis or telur . Yummm.....

Snip,snap,snip, snap.... I cut off the pumpkin shoots and throw them into my laundry basket. Ouch... they are too prickly, aren't they? How the hell did those 'makciks' in our hostel kitchen cook 'gulai lemak pucuk labu' for 300 young girls? Kak Zai said, 'You roll it between your palms'... ouch, ouch...OUCH!!!!!For the last 2 days the pumpkin shoots lay dead in my laundry basket. Like the rain, my gulai lemak pucuk labu is no where to be seen. Perhaps, I too should adjust my taste buds accordingly. Roast pumpkin and barbeque ribs or buttery pumpkin soup would do.


However, I shall remain,

Yours truly,

*posted on behalf of Maklabu