rosewater

Singapore

alex :)
constantly nervous about everything
likes music, books, chem and soft toys
always up for an adventure (despite much trepidation)

Message to Readers

Here's the first draft haha
If possible feedback over the overall structure of the piece is appreciated as I'm still revising it, as well as whether the overall content and message is suitable for the theme of the competition.
Thanks so much in advance! :))

The Gastronomical Misadventures of a Not-So-Happy Camper

June 9, 2020

A clatter rang out behind me, and I turned to see our pot spill its fragrant, delicious-looking contents all across the concrete floor, along with the horrified faces of a dozen students and our instructor looking very sorry indeed. In that instant I had never wanted more to kill a man. But to truly understand this murderous intent I must explain from the beginning, from a slimy mess tin slicked with oil and the choking soot of a solid fuel-induced flame to a can of the fakest-looking fish I had ever seen in my entire life. 

As a fifteen-year-old Singaporean student last year, I underwent the ritual all fifteen-year-old Singaporean students must undergo eventually: being shipped off to somewhere ulu, whether it be a neighbouring island or a far-off coast of Singapore, and being left to die. As for me, I was dropped into Pulau Ubin, an island northeast of the mainland. The ferry honked merrily as it dropped us and our bags off, as if having a jolly laugh at our expense. To prevent the volatile mixture of way-too-enthusiastic and way-too-tired students from erupting into "Lord of the Flies: Asian Edition", awaiting us was our camp and its instructors, and thus began the five day Outward Bound Singapore (OBS) camp.

While lunch was provided in the form of a single pack of tortilla wrappings, a packet of Oreos for each of us and the aforementioned tin of suspicious looking meat, dinner did no such thing. As the sun set over whatever campsite we had clawed our way to that evening, we unpacked the tents, started the fires are began to cook. Our ingredients were always a surprise, one day udon and the next bee hoon, though we cooked all in a sub-par fashion regardless. Even so, dinnertime was a time of winding down and for relaxation. It was the time for putting aloe vera on our mosquito bites from hiking or our sunburns from kayaking and complaining about our aching shoulders numb from the heavy backpacks, when everyone sat down criss-cross applesauce on the slightly damp mats in one big circle stuffing their faces with half-burnt udon and watery bee hoon

And as the water boiled on the stove, it seemed as though something else stirred inside us. How a petite Indian girl short as could be established herself "head of the house", flitting back and forth between groups to do whatever she could, be it standing guard over the pot with fervour or scraping out the last traces of mystery meat from a can. How a boy I barely knew from school with warm brown eyes helped me hoist a basin full of water up two flights of stairs without a word from me. How people washed others' mess tins and cutlery, or shared whatever traces of dish soap remained or downed their portions without a word of complaint, sitting together and laughing.

With me returning home from school at six or later and my parents having disparate work schedules stretching till early morning the next day, our household has never enforced the habit of eating dinner for the sake of practicality. And while we spent quality family time in our own ways, cooking and eating together does bring together in its own delicious way. Food was just plain necessary, and that necessity allowed people to bond in terms of need.

That brings me back to the beginning, with our spilt pot and hapless instructor ruining about an hour's worth of chopping, boiling and mixing on the very last night of our camp. In that moment our hearts all dropped to the floor; yet after a second of shock, disappointment and anger, it subsided. The instructor provided us with spare ingredients and his sincere apology and we began cooking once again. If this had been on our first night, it probably would've turned out much differently- no doubt some would have flopped onto the mat and called it a day. But the days of struggling through thick and thin, be it situations or soggy noodles, had brought us together. And so after an extra hour, a steaming pot of carrots, corn, lettuce and as always, noodles, brought us together as the last meal of the day and our times together. The soup was watery as usual, spiced only with the sparse bits of chicken essence we could scrape together. Yet the yellow, ripe corn gave bursts of sweetness, packed with the crunchiness of carrot and lettuce, giving the noodles a plain yet wholehearted satisfaction only fresh ingredients can give. Somehow it tasted better than ever before, although I doubt our cooking skills had improved at all over the five days. Sometimes the love and care we give each other is more than enough to sweeten the pot.

A few days after the camp I started learning how to cook. As I laid the dishes on the table with my own humble contribution, a bowl of scrambled egg, cucumber and tomato slices tossed with sauce, my mother asked, "Why the sudden want to learn how to cook?"

I thought back to warm fires, hungry stomachs and a bunch of teenagers who barely knew each other bonding over our mediocre creations. I thought about how if such a phenomenon could happen again, I wanted to be the one to see it. And how I wanted to be the one to create it for others.

"Just felt like it," I shrugged.
ulu- "remote" in Malay
udon- Japanese wheat pasta made in thick strips
bee hoon- an Asian rice vermicelli

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5 Comments
  • chrysanthemums&ink

    this is so good i-
    i swear if you do not get at least get an honorable mention (though this piece deserves SO MUCH MORE) i will THROW HANDS-
    it's just that good wow. this is really really good.


    6 months ago
  • Anne Blackwood

    Less than two paragraphs into this, I was already telling my brother that I was pretty sure I was reading the winning piece. I'm not joking. This is written just incredibly.


    6 months ago
  • sunny.v

    you’re so hilarious, honestly, in your writing style. this was so fun to read!


    6 months ago
  • Eblinn

    This is so wonderful! I had a few giggles when I read "Lord of the Flies: Asian Edition", your writing style is funny and just really nice. The last sentence showed what you had discovered about bonding over food, but that your mother wouldn't understand as you just shrugged. I thought that was a clever way of learning the different perspectives here. I love this!


    6 months ago
  • Remi

    I really love your piece! I believe structure wise it is good, the beginning going into to the back story and finishing with the future, it fits together nicely. The story really made me understand why exactly the mc wanted to learn to cook and the importance of them bonding with the other kids over cooking. This piece is very well done!


    6 months ago