Brainstrummings from a Bug-Eyed Bookworm

Tiff is a PhD student in English literature at UC-Berkeley. She takes no prisoners, bars no holds, holds no bars.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Food Colouring, Glorious Food Colouring!!!

Easter approacheth! The time of the year when we (dost) commemorate the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ...and when Peeps start appearing in the candy section of supermarkets and drug-stores.
When I first came to the U.S. as a wide-eyed, wholesome, innocent undergrad of 17, I was fascinated by Peeps. They looked so sweet and delicious! I assumed that everybody felt this way about Peeps, until I got to Berkeley, where I found, much to my surprise, that Peeps were not beloved by one and all. In fact, a German friend of mine is so fascinated in a horrified way by Peeps that she is planning on mailing a box of them to her brother for his birthday so that he too can be shocked and horrified by what the confectionaries of America hath wrought!

Fair enough. I can sort of see why Peeps might terrify some. Why, like King-Kong, they might be doomed to live out ill-fated lives as the victims of misunderstanding and unreasonable prejudice. I can sympathise, if you will. But it's difficult, I tell you. Difficult to find room in my oh-so-roomy heart to sympathise with the close-minded mobs who shudder and gnash their teeth at the brightly-coloured artificial sunshine that Peeps pour into our souls.

I'll say it now. Food colouring is my friend. Not my best friend, mind you. But let's put it this too much smack about it and we'll have to take it outside. Sometimes, I'll put a few drops of food colouring into my milk and cereal in the morning to cheer myself up (blue, red, or green...never yellow). Then again, these are some of the desserts I grew up eating:

This is pulut inti (sweet glutinous rice with coconut and palm-sugar topping). It's an Indonesian dessert. Traditionally, the rice is coloured with the dye from a flower called bunga telang, but to save time and cut costs, a lot of cake-shops will use blue food colouring instead. Ah-hah! you say. See? The cake can be coloured using natural and NOT artificial colouring! But my point here is this: I couldn't care less whether they use a flower or a few drops of artificial blueness to make it look so purty.

Other desserts from my childhood (now so long ago and far of my students guessed my age at 31 today.)

This is kue lapis sagu (sago layer cake). Also an Indonesian dessert. I used to buy one slice of these and then peel and eat it individual layer by individual layer.
This is es kacang (literally "bean ice"): a mixture of red beans, grass-jelly, tapioca, and sweet corn buried under a huge mound of shaved ice and then doused in various brightly-coloured syrups (artificially coloured, of course).

You may ask yourself, what on earth spurred Tiff to post about her obsession with artificially coloured comestibles? Well...I recently had one of those gratifying moments in life that we all know and so dearly love: when you come across an article which expresses your own opinion exactly, so that you feel completely justified in opining the way you do and that you're a wonderful human being. The article is from Slate: The Scarlet Batter--Why Our Aversion to Artifical Food Coloring Makes No Sense.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

London Loves Its Dumplings: From the Bowels of the Main Library

Upon a quick glance while passing by a book-shelf I spied a book entitled, The London Dumpling Convention. Wow, I thought, who would've thunk? Unfortunately, it turned out that the book was actually on the London Dumping Convention.