My son made a brown Betty, a type of steamed pudding, for dinner before I left Australia for England.
These desserts were a staple of my childhood. They make one feel comfortable and comforted; the trials of life are, however briefly, soothed by the warmth and calm of such food. There is no ‘trying’ in the presence of a steamed pudding.
They bake in a covered bowl on a rack in a pot of boiling water. When the pot lid is removed, steam issues forth. When the cover of the pudding bowl is removed, steam rises. When the pudding is cut and laid in slices on a plate, steam wafts. This brown Betty of my son’s seemed to have soaked up some of the moisture. Rather than sitting pertly in fluffy slices, it slumped on the plate, moist and done in.
That’s how I felt when I exited the terminal at Singapore. I was the brown Betty in the steam of Singapore.
That is one hot, damp country. But it is not “comfortable and comforting”. Like any travel experience worth that title, Singapore puts one on alert for the next serving of unfamiliarity.
The road to our hotel swept through the orange-lit treetops, like the glide of an owl. A structure resembling dinosaur ribcages stuck up next to the river. Looming near the road was a building with an end so pointy it looked like a photo, laminated and propped against the black sky. Many of the buildings were simply high-rise glass with lights installed.
The following morning we stepped into pudding steam again. I was glad of the warmth after the chill of air-conditioning but I did credit the people I saw on a tennis court – that was another level of acceptance entirely.
The humidity was so pronounced that, unbeknown to me, my camera lens misted over. My first photo of a woven rubbish bin (so much more appealing than plastic) came out like this:
Breakfast on the streets was a challenge. I was confronted with soup, noodles, meat dishes and other things my taste buds have long since designated as gustatively appropriate only from noon onwards. Eventually, The BB sweated over a soup and I wondered about the stodgy vegetable in my omelette. The spicy paste kept it interesting.
Too soon we were back to the airport, past median strips resplendent with blossoms and general tropical lushness.
Whatever doughiness I felt upon arrival, Singapore, with its unexpectedness, had jolted me out of it.
PS That brown Betty my son made tasted damn good – soft, sweet, buttery, and fragrant with raspberry jam. Try your own. Maybe it will be upright and fluffy or maybe you’ll leave a little gap in the cover for the Singapore effect.
Have you ‘lived’ any childhood foods?
Brown Betty (Thanks, Mum.)½ cup butter (3-4 oz) 1 ½ cups SR flour ½ cup sugar 2 tbs raspberry jam ½ cup milk ½ tsp bicarb soda
Mix the butter and flour. Add the sugar and jam. Mix the milk and bicarb soda. Add to the mixture. Place in a bowl. Cover bowl with buttered paper then tinfoil. Tie with string to ensure it is water-tight. Place in water about ¾ of the way up the bowl. Boil for at least 1½ hours.
Sliced apples can be added to the mixture to really get things going. Then it’s called ‘Apple Brown Betty’. (You may have been ahead of me there.)