Friday, March 30, 2007

Haute Couture

Haute couture: French for "high sewing" or "high dressmaking"; refers to the creation of exclusive custom-fitted fashions - definition by Wikipedia

I have always dreamed of owning haute couture - perhaps a Dolce and Gabbana or better yet, an Oscar de la Renta

I never dreamed that I actually would end up owning what is technically considered haute couture although it's neither a D&G or a de la Renta original. The outfit is straight out of Africa and designed by Asia - that's the designer's name by the way, Asia Idarous.

My sudden leap into the world of 'high dressmaking' happened a few weeks ago when I attended a luncheon that was enticingly called "A Taste of Tanzania". It was organised by a group of expats who belong to an international charity organisation and a fashion show by a local designer was one of the highlights.

Alright, a Dar runway is by no means a New York, Paris or Milan runway. Hey, it's not even a KL runway but what the heck - it's a runway. After one year in Tanzania, trust me, any runway is a good runway!

I didn't know what to expect so I tried not to expect anything. The bad news was that it was hotter than hell under the tents in the garden where the event was held. The good news was that the garden was gorgeous and the food and fashion part of the event was beyond marvelous.

If you don't believe me, here's the proof:
Fab food....

and high fashion Tanzanian-style...

This was my purchase (for the record, that's not me in the picture. Trixie panicked thinking that I had inexplicably begun looking like the local people). I literally got it straight off the runway.

I haven't worn it yet. Trixie, who's passion for fashion is widely known, has given me her seal of approval and is already thinking up places for me to wear it in KL.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

You can take the girl out of the small town....

Girlfriend and I had, what I thought, was a highly fascinating conversation recently.

No, it wasn't about global warming, poverty or world peace. We discussed something far more critical than that - Britney Spears.

Let me admit, straight up , that neither one of us is a Britney fan but we were curious to know why she started off looking like this

moved on to this

and now looks like this

I mean, fan or not, anyone is going to wonder what in the world is bothering this girl. It's sad, actually.

As I often do, I offered up my unsolicited opinion on the deterioration of Ms.Spears. I believe that she made a HUGE mistake when she married Kevin Federline and has since gone down Trailer Trash lane. This is very much the story of Whitney Houston and Bobbi Brown, another doomed union (incidentally, Britney's last big hit was My Prerogative, a Bobbi Brown 80s hit - mere coincidence or weird karmic link? Cue Twilight Zone theme music!!!)

Then Girlfriend came up with a far better explanation. She is of the belief that Britney suffers from 'smalltowngirl' syndrome. Anyone who grew up in a small town (Girlfriend and I both did) will instantly recognise this deadly disease. Britney is originally from Kentwood, Louisiana which makes her a small town, down south kinda gal. Kentwood is described as a rural town (I looked it up) so Girlfriend's theory fits.

The big city girls might ask: "what's smalltowngirl syndrome?" Well, a smalltowngirl grows up in a community where everyone, and I mean everyone, knows who she is. The entire population of the town will know her father, mother, brothers and sisters, her favourite flavour of ice-cream and what her pet goldfish is called. In other words, you can't step one toe out of line without the whole town finding out about it and whispering awful things about you and your family. It's all about reputation, reputation and reputation in a small town.

What is the effect of all this on a teenage girl? Well, you learn to smile and call everyone above 30 Aunty and Uncle until you're blue in the face. You also learn to please e-v-e-r-y-b-o-d-y! You're expected to be all pure and virginal until you get married. Then you're immediately supposed to have kids.

So Girlfriend's theory goes that Britney Spears is a smalltowngirl at heart. Despite being an international superstar who wears outfits that leave little to the imagination (and little doubt that Ms. Spears has no fashion sense) Britney failed to shake off that smalltowngirl syndrome. If you really think about it, Girlfriend's theory is right.

In order to portray a goodie-goodie image, Britney kept insisting she was still a virgin even though Justin Timberlake had 'been there, done that!' When the truth came out she tried to repair her reputation, in true smalltowngirl style. She turned to a backup guy- her backup dancer Kevin Federline - and married him. Then, she took the smalltowngirl syndrome even further by immediately having two kids.

If you're wondering why she's now turned into a totally psycho party girl, there's an explanation. According to Girlfriend, Britney has finally realized that it's no point trying to do the smalltowngirl thing anymore coz she is now a divorced mother with two kids.

Her reputation back in Kentwood, Louisiana is in shreds and the Uncles and Aunties tongues and fingers would be wagging by now. So she's just given up and gone crazy - a smalltowngirl gone bad.

There's still hope for Britney though. Maybe if she finds a 'nice boy' and 'settles down' she might redeem herself in the eyes of the Kentwood-ians. You'd think she wouldn't care about what people think but I suspect she does because the truth is, you can take the girl out of the small town but you can't take the small town out of the girl!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Slipping over the hill

I am freaking out right now!!! I'm very nearly Over The Hill!!!! It's alright when someone else is that sweet old lady, above, but it's not so funny when you realize that it's you!

I never knew this but a quick way to discover if you're officially an old person(other than pay attention to any grey hair on your head and if there are wrinkles appearing between your toes) is to fill up one of those online forms.

I'm sure you know which kind of form I'm talking about. They've got all these little 'drop down menus' which you can click 'n choose. For instance, if you're ordering something from Amazon, you have to click on the drop down menu to choose which country you want the books shipped to so Malaysia will be listed somewhere below Malawi but above Mozambique.

It's fine if all you have to do is to choose a country but what about the forms that require your birth date?

I am in the midst of filling one now. It's for Emirates and I normally cringe when it comes to forms but I heard that frequent flier miles gets you bumped up to first class. It was then a case of Lazy Trisha vs Diva Trisha and Diva Trisha won out. Lazy Trisha may not be willing to brave annoying online forms for a first class flight back to Kay-el but Diva Trisha sure is!

What I didn't bargain for is the fact that I have to now brave my imminent crossover into being well and truly old!

I clicked on the menu that listed birth years. When you click once, there are about 30 years listed beginning with 1991 going backward to the 60s. If you're born before the 60s you'll have to scroll down the menu. Otherwise you only have to click once and your year will appear straightaway (coz you'd be born within 30 years of 1991).

While I didn't have to scroll down the menu (thank goodness!) I noticed that I'm getting closer and closer to the bottom of that list! I tried to avoid it by not filling up that portion of the form but then an accusatory, horrible appeared "Enter the year of your birth!". Awful!

I don't smoke and and I'm not about to start now to ease this stress. After all there's only one thing worse than an old hag and that's an old hag with a fag in her mouth! So I'm going to chew on something sweet till I feel better.

Note to self: Never fill up online forms first thing in the morning because it's most probably going to ruin the rest of the day.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Culture and Cooking Rice

I have never fully appreciated how truly wonderful a bowl of perfectly cooked rice is until I attempted to cook some myself - without a rice cooker. Arrgggh!

Ahh! The humble rice cooker. Who would've thought that an apparatus that can turn raw grains into fluffy rice would be one of the things I would miss most from Malaysia?
I've been struggling mightily ever since I arrived in Dar last May, to cook rice properly in a pot. The results have been vastly varied. I've produced:

1) Seriously burned rice.
This happened when I gave myself too much credit with being able to handle things in the kitchen. Instead of anxiously watching over the rice and boiling water as all novice cooks should, I would prance out of the kitchen, get caught up in yet another piece of scandalous celebrity gossip on E! and completely forget about the boiling rice. Eventually all the water would completely disappear and there'd be a hard black piece of charcoal-like object stuck to the bottom of the pot where the rice used to be. I'd only realize what I'd done when I smelled something burning and rushed through the smoky fog in the kitchen to turn the stove off. The rest of the afternoon would be spent trying, in vain, to scrub off burnt bits from the bottom of the now charcoal-black pot.

2) Undercooked rice.
This happened when I used to get overly anxious about the rice to the point of being paranoid. The rice would be barely cooked before I rushed to take it off the fire. Not a good idea because the rice grains wouldn't be cooked in the centre and have retained that awful chalky taste of uncooked rice. Unfortunately, it took me a while to tell that the rice was uncooked just by looking at it. I'd usually only realize when I started eating it and noticed The Engineer bravely trying not to spit out his mouthful. I'd then have to start all over again with the rice and pot rigmarole - tiresome!

3)Almost-right rice
I eventually got to the point where the rice was almost cooked perfect. After tons of trial, error and timing the whole process with a stopwatch (when all else fails, rely on science), I got it to a point where only the grains at the sides of the pot were not really cooked properly. This problem was minor enough for me to say like all bad workmen and their tools: "It's the pot- that's why the rice doesn't cook evenly!"

After a year of going through 1, 2 and 3, I decided on a whim that I should just call it quits and buy a cooker. So here is my beauuutifooool new rice cooker. Ta-dah!

The interesting thing is, my South African lady friends who sometimes eat rice at home, think I'm daft to be complaining about cooking rice in a pot. They'd been doing the rice- with- a -pot thing since they were little and are experts at getting it exactly right - I know cause I've sampled some. One of them even asked:"What's a rice cooker?" when I mentioned my recent purchase. I was shocked and so were they but for different reasons.

They couldn't believe that someone who has grown up eating rice at almost every meal would not know how to cook it without a cooker and I couldn't believe that some of them hadn't even heard of a rice cooker! The differences among cultures can be so so very fascinating - even if it's only about rice cookers!

Monday, March 05, 2007

Food Extremist

It seems to me that I might be developing a really unhealthy relationship with food.

Immediately following my detox, I managed to maintain a semblance of healthy eating with lots of fruits and more vegetables than usual in my daily diet. Unfortunately, I have since fallen off the bandwagon and am now craving sweet, unhealthy desserts, sugar and fried stuff. Yikes!

I'm in the midst of trying to fight off this sudden onslaught and I must say I have not succeeded thus far.

It all started to go downhill when The Engineer and I dined at Dar Es Salaam's poshest restaurant on Saturday night. It was a long overdue wedding anniversary celebration. I would have survived if not for that dratted dessert.

It was this heavenly melted chilly chocolate with white chocolate balls dipped in coconut cream. Anyone who thinks chilly and chocolate don't go together have obviously not tasted the combination.

Since there were three large chocolate balls I couldn't eat all of it. Any dieter who knows what's good for them would have thought "to hell with world hunger, I'm not going to get fat just so as not to waste the food on my plate," and left well enough alone.

I, of course, did no such thing. I made the waiter pack up the two enormous white chocolate balls that were left on my plate and ate them the next day.

I've been regretting that decision ever since. I now feel like running out and buying tons of chocolate and eating it all till I'm sick.

I scrounged around my refrigerator and found a couple of bars of white chocolate just a moment ago. After hesitating for a full minute I ended up eating half a bar but hated myself the moment I put it into my mouth.

I really think I'm turning into some sort of food extremist. I'm either totally depriving myself or I'm stuffing my face. Looks like I'm either going to be a fat cow or shrink into oblivion.