(19) The Pockmarked Wife

(19) The Pockmarked Wife

A panoramic lake and city view. George and Wandy's apartment overlooks east, sweeping a wide, nearly 270 degrees to the south-west of Lake Ontario, which guarantees spectacular scenes of sunrise and sunset. They know what they've got - a million dollar view. But somehow, they still feel overwhelmed by the generous supply of natural light - banks of windows that practically embracing the flat from ceiling to floor, like a solarium not to exaggerate. The light is very welcoming in the Winter months, it's much weaker and the day is short. In the Summer, when the couple returns from hot and humid Hong Kong to dryer and cooler Toronto, their sleep is often disturbed in early morning hours, streaks of strong lights seeping in from small openings and hairline cracks through the blackout curtains. Regardless of this bit of 'discomfort', their friends always admire the light-filled condo and the openness of the view from a high point. This evening Mr. and Mrs. Bento are dinning with George and Wandy in their flat, sharing wonderful home-prepared food, getting dazzled in this magic hour by the gorgeously painted sky.  

"Hmm this is so delicious George, smells wonderful and tastes so yummy. Did you spend the whole afternoon making it?" Mrs. Bento raves about the lotus root pancake George made for their supper. George is a vegetarian. Both Bentos love vegetarian food and for tonight Mrs. Bento brought over aloo gobi - an Indian veggie dish made with potatoes, cauliflower and Indian spices. She knows this is one of George's favourites. Wandy loves Chinese food and she has made mapo tofu. She always gets freshly made tofu from Korean town because it has better texture and taste.

"This tofu is fabulous!" exclaimed Mr. Bento. Mrs. Bento nods with her mouth full, analyzing the different layers of favours, the pungent, sharp and fiery gravy sunk deep into chunks of white, soft and silken, jello-like tofu. Next comes numbness in her tongue.

"How did you make this Mapo tofu? Did some expert share with you the secret to cook?" Mr. Bento asks Wandy as she walks over to the open kitchen fetching more steamed rice.

"My teacher is not a chef, he's YouTube." Wandy replies smilingly.

Mapo Tofu is a traditional Sichuan Cuisine Dish, named after the pockmarked (ma) wife (po) who supposedly invented it at her husband's restaurant. The main ingredient is bean curd. But it is the spicy sauce that sets it apart from any other way of cooking this seemingly plain and tasteless food. The fiery sauce is made of douban (fermented broad bean and chili paste) and douchi (fermented black beans). To add texture Wandy substituted the minced pork with mock meat - a form of wheat gluten. While the soft white cubes tangoing with the oily red suspension in the wok, she kicked in the final ingredients - sprinkling handfuls of freshly cracked Sichuan peppercorn and diced green scallions - Bam bam bam!

"I love the stir-fry baby bok choy, fresh and in season. The diced garlic adds so much aroma and taste Wandy" George said.

"Oh yes, I'm using only organic ginger and garlic now. It was hard to find them before but now they are everywhere. You have to know what organic really looks like to avoid buying something that's not. It's funny when you think of it - natural grown food becoming special grown food."

"And we're not far from eating computer printed food!" said Mr. Bento, "At the moment manufacturers are still using edible ingredients. For tomorrow, when technology comes up with even cheaper sources and easier methods of preparing, most food ingredients may be just synthetic, and the meat - probably lab-grown."

"Well I can't imagine the food we have to eat in the future, I mean if we run out of the types of food we are eating now. I heard that people have been preparing to survive on insects and worms, and burbling about their nutrition and protein." A shiver runs down Mrs. Bento's spine as she speaks. Blame it on her imaginative association with flying cockroaches, which are not uncommon in Hong Kong.

"Ah well, let's enjoy the wonderful food we have for now. After dinner I'll brew some vintage pu-erh tea, then more on the members of the photo museum. I imagine you already have some candidates in mind Bento?" asks George as he casually picks up some potatoes from the aloo gobi.

"Vintage pu-erh! These days could fetch up to thousands of dollars! This is a crazy world, crazy standards crazy value. By the way, would you agree to shorten the name photo museum to PMuseum? Hmm maybe not, it sounds too much like pee museum, which might well be, another museum. What about Pho Museum? No no no, not noodle museum! But photo museum is so generic. Light Museum? Photon Museum? Look Museum? Unfortunately all these names seem to refer to something else." Mr. Bento's voice tones down a notch as he ponders the question.

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