The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Monday, March 22, 2010

Too sweet to eat.

I had an unexpected experience, yesterday, in a Malaysian restaurant. It was called dessert.

I enquired as to one of my favourite deserts, from Singapore, with the waitress.

"Do you have Pulut Hitam?" I asked.

She shook her head. Then said something rapidly in Malay to my wife.

"It is a banana based dessert", my wife explained to me. "It should be nice."

I agreed to try it.

A few minutes later a yellow opaque soupy dish arrived. Floating in it, were some pieces of broken banana. I scooped one out and placed it in my mouth.

Ouch. It was almost so sweet, it hurt. The flavour was one of the most intense I had ever tasted. It really was trying too hard to call attention to itself. I decided to persevere, to see if it would get any better. However, three mouthfuls later, I had to give up. All that sweetness was making me feel queasy. It was simply too sweet to eat.

Yet, I understand, such excessively sweet desserts are normal in Malaysia. The country has the sweetest tooth, as a people, I have encountered. Everything seems to have sugar on it. It is both bizarre - and, in some ways, unpleasant. You see, the natural flavours of quite wholesome foods, tend to get lost in all the sugar that is thrown on them.

Interestingly, I have heard ads on the radio, recently, for an eat less sugar campaign. The ads claim that less sugar means better health. Now, of all the countries I have ever visited Malaysia certainly needs a less sugar campaign. They could start with the restaurant I ate at yesterday.

Anthropologically, I find this aspect of Malaysia interesting. For it shows that a nation can become accustomed to quite unpleasant degrees of excessive flavouring and not only see it as NORMAL - but seek it out, in preference to more normally (from the point of view of the rest of the world) made foods. Somewhere, along the line, Malysians fell in love with sugar. They have done so to such an extent, that some local foods could be construed as a hazard to foreigners...because they are shockingly sweet.

Anyway, I left three quarters of the dessert uneaten on my table, yesterday. This is not normal for me, since I usually eat whatever dessert I choose (since I rather like them!). Yesterday, however, the dessert was truly unbearable. However, it taught me a lesson: the only desserts I am going to eat, from now on, in Malaysia, are ones we make at home. It is a kind of culinary suicide to eat the desserts in Malaysian restaurants, if you are a foreigner and not used to such sweetness.

In a way, I suppose this situation is good: I might lose some weight, by avoiding the more sugary foods. It does occur to me, however, that no-one who had not experienced the dessert I ate yesterday, would know quite how sweet it was. It was the first time in my life, in which the sweetness could be described as noxious. It simply made me feel unwell to eat it. I suppose, unless you have experienced it, it might be difficult to imagine how sweetness can be like that...but it was. I wouldn't recommend it.

So, if you ever visit have been warned about the desserts. The main courses, however, are a different matter and can be rather tasty. Happy eating!

(By the way, one reason why there might be so much sugar in Malaysian food, is that it is subsidized and very cheap. That should go for a start.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 1:17 PM 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

hehehe... yup we love sweet things. there is a billionaire in Malaysia,he has sugarcane estate in perlis. we called him 'raja gula'. i think he is the 1st out of 10th bilionaire in malaysia.

erm...i thinks that's why most of malaysian have short lifespan.huhuhu

1:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Valentine,

Pulut hitam being a Peranakan dessert, it must be served somewhere in Kuala Lumpur, let alone Malaysia.

Happy hunting.

3:08 PM  
Blogger Christine said...

I have found that Koreans like hot stuff a lot. Most of the food has red pepper in it. People even grow red peppers in their roof gardens. In the Fall people leave out tarps with red peppers to dry in the sun. Even apartment complexes are filled with them on their rooftops and many spots of bare ground.
The truth is that stomach cancer is very common here.

7:22 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Isn't it funny, Christine, how nations fall in love with a particular food and make it central to their cuisine...a love which seems odd to outsiders...even unpalatable?

As for common diseases, I think DIABETES is rather common in Malaysia...and no wonder.

Thanks for your characterful comment.

10:50 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Re sugar billionaire...I am unsurprised that someone in sugar, should be so rich, here, in Malaysia...EVERYONE buys from him everyday, whether they know it or not.

I suppose that certain kinds of doctors would be well off, too.

10:52 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thanks for the tip re. Pulut Hitam...I will keep looking and see if I can find a source near where I live.

10:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Valentine,

The last time I was back on a holiday in KL, I tried bubur pulut hitam from a small reastaurant called 'lemon grass' at Ampang point (if not mistaken on the 4th floor, same level as Dept store 'Royale'). Its one of the most delicious pulut hitam I've tasted then.
Good luck!

7:09 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Re. lemon grass bubur pulut hitam...thanks so much for the tip! I shall seek them out. I have missed it since I came here (it is not as commonly found as in Singapore).


8:39 PM  

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