Friday, September 11, 2009

My baby is vegetarian and will not allow me to eat meat, although God knows, I still try to sneak some past him. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

What works: Thin slices of charsiew, wantons, shredded chicken breast and hamburgers from fast food chains (because as we know, what passes for a meat patty is really ground up sawdust and other unidentified non-meat substances.)

What does not work: Pork knuckles, sausages and schnitzel. The baby knows when I attempt to eat large quanties of meat and he makes his disapproval known by activating my gag reflex when I try to swallow my food. Bad baby.

And then as Murphy's Law would have it, I end up travelling to meat-loving Germany (but of course), where I nearly die of starvation. (The trip was planned way before the baby was even a glint in his father's eye, by the way, and I couldn't cancel it - the trip that is, not the baby. Unless I forfeited my air ticket, which I didn't want to, because I am currently in the throes of extreme poverty.)

The main reason I didn't die in Germany was the one-Asian-meal*-a-day routine we kept to every single day of the trip, but that didn't mean I wasn't hungry a lot though.

I often woke up at four or five in the morning, Germany time, with horrible gnawing hunger pangs. The first two nights, I survived on the cheese and crackers and the buns and little tubs of butter and jam pinched from the plane and stuffed surreptitiously into my carry on luggage when the flight attendants weren't looking. But when my pilfered food ran out, I had to raid the supermarket, and the most nutritious food I could think of buying was milk.

It was surprisingly hard to buy milk in Germany though, because all the milk came fresh and needed to be refrigerated, which is hard to do when travelling. None of that 250ml Tetra Pak Daisy milk that you get in Singapore.

So when I finally found some Tetra Pak packets of chocolate milk, I swiped six packets at one go. Those didn't last long though, and soon, I was back at another supermarket looking for more Tetra Pak milk. No luck this time.

But I did find a whole shelf of these attractive looking glass bottles containing what looked like milk. I can't read German, but I saw the words "kondensierte vollmilch" on the label, and I recognised the word "milch", which means milk. And I took the words "17% fettfreie" to mean "17% fat free", which I guessed meant the milk was either full cream or low fat. One of those.

And I figured (with some help from the Heidi-lookalike ang gong kia on the label) that the word "alpenmilch" referred to "alpine milk" - that is, milk from cows reared in the Alps. (So clever, right, me).

All these clues point to the fact that that white stuff in the bottle was milk, right? Right?? So I bought it.

But when I opened up the milk, it tasted weird. It was a tad too sweet and had the thickened consistency of milk that had gone slightly off. It didn't taste sour though, just slightly too concentrated for milk. Like supercharged milk.

The Resident Bureaucrat took a sip and said, has this milk gone bad?

And I said, surely not; I just opened it and it looks fine what. And it doesn't taste sour.

So I drank it all up because I was so hungry. It did taste funny though.

The strange milk was always at the back of my mind, and I had this vague suspicion that what I drank wasn't really milk. So I took the empty bottle home and when I was back in Singapore, I went onto online translation webpage Babelfish and translated the German words on the milk bottle label.

"Kondensiert vollmilch" turns out to be condensed milk.

Who would have known, really.

It wasn't the type of sweetened, thickened condensed milk that we get in Singapore. Even I wouldn't be foolish enough to drink that. But I think what I drank that night was evaporated milk. You know, like the canned Carnation brand type that we get in Singapore.

It could have been worse though; I could have bought six bottles of that stuff at one go. I should be thankful for small mercies.

*In Germany, you can find Asian restaurants even in the most obscure of regions - all run by Chinese people, of course. And no matter which Asian restaurant you go to, the fare tastes like Chinese food. Japanese food tastes like Chinese food and Thai food tastes like Chinese food. The only exception is Chinese food, which does not taste like Chinese food, but like something that the Chinese whipped up to bluff the ang mohs.

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