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Monday, September 16, 2019

The Biology of Falling in Love

I must confess that I have been giving The Husband a rather hard time for a few months. One fine day, his menopausal wife said, "You don't love me anymooooooore!" Then, I proceeded to recount all the things he used to do when we were dating. He did not do them anymore. Therefore, logic dictates that he loved me less than when we were dating.

Right, which menopausal woman out there can relate?

The poor husband was completely befuddled. He had not been doing all those things for our 30 years of marriage, and it did not seem to have bothered me any for 30 years. All of a sudden, I was kicking up a fuss and requesting romance in our marriage. Of a sudden, the poor man found himself coerced into buying me jewels, flowers, expensive hotel stays... plus a whole host of other things. In the past, I eschewed jewels for houses and flowers for stock market shares. Instead of expensive hotel stays, I took pride in AirBnB lodgings. The Husband stared at me wonderingly, "How can anyone change so much overnight?"

My response was, "Good for you! Now, it appears that you have a whole new wife! Isn't that fresh and exciting?"

The Husband really put his back into this romance business. He spared no expense in his effort to be romantic. However, to his greatest dismay, he found that it was not enough! I further complained that all that he did, did not count because he did not WANT to do them. He was compelled to do them by me! I wanted him to do these romantic things not just willingly but spontaneously and enthusiastically!! I wanted him to treat me like a girlfriend again!

At this point, he gave me the mother of all wild-eyed looks! Then, he said, "But, you are NOT my girlfriend! You are my wife!" What he meant was that being a wife is better than being a girlfriend. What I thought was being a girlfriend was better than being a wife. So, for that one comment, he was banished to the couch, and I retired to bed with a box of tissue paper.

We finally found our resolution in the research of Dr. Helen Fisher.

Fisher has famously identified three neural systems that controls human mating:

— a sex drive that is testosterone-based in males and females,
— a dopamine-fueled network that focuses attention on one person and creates the feeling of exclusive romantic love,
— and an oxytocin- and vasopressin-led circuit that fosters feelings of deep attachment and the development of a bond that can last at least long enough to raise a child through infancy.

The three hormonal systems, and the emotions they cause, don’t always work in co-ordination “You can be in bed at night and
(1) feel deep attachment to one person,
(2) swing into feelings of wild infatuation for somebody else, and
(3) then feel sexually attracted to someone you hardly know,”
... says Dr. Helen Fisher.

Petunia does not do anything in half measures. In my tiny little menopausing head, my marriage was not good unless we had all 3 for one another. So, I took the research and shared it with The Husband, stating that we should work towards having all 3.

Then, I said, "Since these emotions are controlled by hormones, I shall go and see what herbs to use to help us along."

At this point, The Husband said, "It is bad enough that I am married to a psychologist who specialises in human motivation. I am not even sure which things I do because I want to or which are things YOU psycho-engineer me into WANTING to! After all, if you can make my son WANT to study, you can make anyone WANT anything! Now, you are gonna FEED me herbs to manage our marriage?! There are 3 types of women one should never marry: (1) journalist (2) lawyer (3) psychologist. I think the psychologist is the worst! I am married to a Psychologist-cum-Herbalist!"

He stopped short of saying, "Woe is me," but I know he was thinking it. Then, he said, "We have great things going on in this marriage. We have gone through so much together. You are my closest buddy. Why can't you be thankful for what we already have?"

Finally, I came to the realisation that it just was not possible for the human body to be flooded with so many hormones (testosterone, dopamine, oxytocin and vasopressin) all at once. Human emotions needed to be experienced one at a time so that each could be savoured fully.

Petunia had to prioritise the 3 neural systems.
(a) testosterone drives lust
(b) dopamine drives romance
(c) oxytocin and vasopressin drive a deep connection and attachment.

And then I understood why The Husband would think that being a wife is better than being a girlfriend. In his view, the Wife is in neural system (c). She is the one he cannot live without and will never tire of. She is the one that weaves beauty throughout his life using the deepest roots of his heart.

I feel privileged to be the woman who weaves beauty throughout The Husband's life, using the deepest roots of his heart. Unfortunately, I am still a Psychologist-cum-Herbalist. So, I am still gonna play around with The Husband's dopamine and testosterone levels, just not both at the same time! Hahahahahahahahahaha!

Friday, September 13, 2019

Champignons de Bois (Woodland Mushrooms)

In France, from the tail end of summer to early-ish autumn, you are likely to find people selling woodland mushrooms in the markets and even in the malls (temporary stalls). As an impecunious student in France, I would stare at the mushrooms wishing that I could afford to buy them. 

I almost could not believe my eyes when I saw woodland mushrooms being sold at Chong Pang Market by an itinerant hawker. I tell you... my Chong Pang Market is something special.

This said, I did not like the hawker very much. She was rude and dismissive when she thought that I was not interested in buying. When I did actually buy, she was also very pushy, trying to push on me the ultra expensive abalone and fish maw. Frankly, I am a little fed up with rude hawkers. There is only so much mistreatment one is prepared to take. She gave me her number but I won't be calling. I think.

Anyway, I bought my mushrooms and made a stew with Job's tears, buckwheat, mung beans, assorted vegetables and various woodland mushrooms.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

À la Monkey God 孙悟空

Grumpy Alex was beyond generous. He has given me 5 fig trees. These trees fruit well in pots and need a Mediterranean climate. So, I have them on the 2nd floor terrace where we have a glass roof that shields out rain and lets through sun. This is where I keep my rosemary plants too. Both figs and rosemary are Mediterranean plants.

We have been rewarded with a fig or two everyday. The thing I did not quite expect was The Husband's reaction. He was extremely pleased. Yesterday evening, as he munched on a fat fresh fig that I had harvested and kept for him (I always keep the best ones for him), he said, "I feel like 孙悟空 (aka the Monkey God) munching on the 5000 yr old peaches from the Heavenly Empress' heavenly peach orchards." I stared at him, bemused. I rather thought that these figs were more like something from 花果山 (Flower Fruit Mountain) outside the Monkey God's 水帘洞 (Water Garland Cave).

Again, Google Translate is a wonderful thing, and Grumpy Alex is a lovely man!

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Michelin Bib Gourmand 2019

See the list HERE.

Yay! My favourite braised pork guys (Chuan Kee Boneless Braised Duck) made it into the Michelin Bib Gourmand again. I don't know why I am so happy. The stall does not even belong to me. It simply exists in my little corner of Singapore. Is all.

This said, I am a little peeved that it is always the Ghim Moh outlet that is cited. I wonder if there is an appreciable difference between the Ghim Moh outlet and the one in my corner of Singapore. One day, I will drive all the way down to Ghim Moh to eat and compare.

And guess what! Bedok Chwee Kueh made it in too! I have that in my corner of Singapore as well! Now, what we should do is to get rid of those Chong Pang Market hawkers whose lack of pride in their craft, give hawkers a bad name. The fruit juice hawker at Chong Pang Market is horrendous. I gave specific instructions to him to NOT add sugar into my fruit smoothie. We make smoothies every day at home so I know what a smoothie without sugar will taste like. The idiot added so much sugar that I felt ill after drinking it. It takes absolutely no skill at all to make a smoothie. This poor specimen of a hawker cannot even make one properly.

Then, there is that dessert stall with tang yuan so mushy that it is fairly melting into the soup. You can always tell when a hawker is a bad one. Just look at the housekeeping of the stall. Sloppy people are sloppy in everything, including hygiene and organisation. The good ones run their stalls with military precision.

Once we have got rid of those lousy hawkers (who don't deserve to be called hawkers), we can hopefully attract more Michelin Bib Gourmand hawkers into the Chong Pang Market.

This year, I have copied the list into my file and set myself the goal of eating my way through the list systematically. Every weekend, I will try one Michelin Bib Gourmand eatery.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Sugar Cane

M, our helper, is a very greedy gardener. She is always on the lookout for territory expansion. When she saw the 82 year old lady down the road plant a thriving copse of sugar cane, I was tasked to get sugar cane for planting. This time, I put some effort into it because I know very well that M WILL get her sugar cane whether I get it for her or not. She is very determined, our M.

When she wanted asparagus, I dragged my feet. I told her I did not know where to get. The truth was that I did not even try. One fine day, a Myanmese gentleman appeared and passed her 2 asparagus plants over the gate. When she wanted bottle gourd, I again dragged my feet. Miraculously, she got seeds from goodness knows where!

Then, she looked at me. I felt a little embarrassed because she was so resourceful, and I, with my extensive gardening network on Facebook and a friendship with the Godfather of Exotic Plants (aka Grumpy Alex) was not at half as resourceful. M's spirit and determination made me feel like a wimp. Even though I mostly enjoy being a wimp (because, do you know, people tend to look after wimps... and I like it when my hub and kids look after me), I decided that this time, I needed to rise above my wimpishness before M gave me another smug look.

I asked all the veggie sellers at Chong Pang Market, who did not have sugar cane. Then, I approached the Sugar Cane Auntie and had a conversation:

Me: Can I please buy your sugar cane stems?

Auntie: What for?

Me: To plant in my garden.

Auntie: These won't grow for you.

Me: **mumbling uncomfortably** My maid said it will grow. How much is one stem?

Auntie: $2

Me: I want 4 stems.

Auntie: **opening her box** Ok... pick your stems.

At that point, a whole table full of aunties wanted to know how I was gonna squeeze the juice out on my own. I shyly explained that I wanted to plant them in my garden. All the aunties looked at me and said, "These will not grow for you." At this point,

Sugar Cane Auntie: ** very loudly** I already told her but if she has too much money and wanna buy 4 stems for $8, I am happy to sell her.

I turned and "Hmmmphed!" at her, and got a cheeky smile in return. Then,

Sugar Cane Auntie: Ok lah ok lah, I won't cheat your money. You go over to that old woman selling tropical herbs on the steps there. She will have stems with intact root nodes which will grow for you.

So, that was how I got 4 stems at $2, instead of $8, and made a new friend. This said, I rather suspect that the people in Chong Pang Market  think that I am a sort of bimbo-ish wimp who survives in competitive Singapore solely thanks to a doting husband. You see, I also tried to buy popiah without the skin. I am celiac and popiah skin has gluten but I really wanted to eat popiah. I swear that the hawker's face went through a sequence of indecipherable emotions only to culminate in a very loud, "I sell you the cooked turnip for $5 a box."

When I asked about the taugeh, he yelled, "That one you buy from wet market cheaper lah!"

It was one of those social situations that I could not decipher. So, I shut down, looked unresponsive and walked away. When I do that, I know I look stupid. So, yeah... I am sure the hawkers at Chong Pang think I am dumb.

Monday, September 9, 2019

What's With The Sun These Days?

I was already in the car on my way to Chong Pang Market, thinking of fish soup and the distinctive galangal in its taste profile.

My head began to throb. So, I detoured to Northpoint City instead.

I don't understand it. I am a girl who loves the sun. I love how it looks on the pavement, with its droplets spread on the grass under the trees. I love the way the sun kisses my cheeks when I upturn my face. I love the way the sun infuses my garden with energy. I love the sun's straight rays shining into my bedroom.

The sun has not been kind recently. Instead of gentle kisses on my skin, this sun conjures up a miasma of heat waves that choke me and start a throbbing in my head. My head aches unbearably on days when the sun in Singapore is angry and unkind.

I have become such a wimp. This was never me. This is a new me... a me that is afraid of the sun.

Did The Sun change? Or did I?

Thursday, September 5, 2019

SkipHWCoupon for Dr. Pet

I am thrilled to bits. My adult daughter gave me a SkipHWCoupon for a job well done! I guess this is one of the things that makes a lifetime of sticking my hands into toilet bowls worth it. It feels good when a grown adult child gives one a thumbs up for a job that one mostly muddled through. See HERE.