Monday, 23 June 2014

Soursop misadventure

I've just survived a terrible weekend. It first started when I went up the Penang Hill with a friend late Friday evening. At the food court, I had noticed a stall owner bringing in a basketload of soursop. Fresh, heart-shaped soursop. We locals would call it the angmoh durian because there are little soft spines on the fruit's skin.

I haven't tasted soursop for a very long time. If I were to say that I was still in my pre-teens when I took my last slice of this fruit, it is a very good indication of how long it has been. I have forgotten how it tastes like but my friend, who had ordered a cup of soursop juice from the stall, assured me that it was slightly sweet and sour. "We used to grow the tree in our backyard in Sitiawan," he told me, "but nobody wanted the fruit because of its taste." But I haven't had it for so long and yearned to taste it again. And so, I bought one of the fruit from the stall to bring home.

There were some specific instructions that came with the fruit. "The fruit ripens from the bottom and you should slice it off from there, cover the exposed part with clingwrap and keep the rest of the fruit on the table, slicing off whatever part had ripened," the stall owner said. Then the word of warning: "Don't keep it in the fridge."

Come lunch time on Saturday, I began slicing off the soursop from the bottom. But I noticed that the whole fruit was ripening already. If my wife and I don't finish the fruit fast, it would surely go bad once it had ripen. We sat down to eat as much as we could. A little bit remained unfinished. No more could we eat. Then I decided to put it away in the refrigerator. I had forgotten the word of warning from the stall owner, you see, and kept the unfinished fruit in the fridge. At night after dinner, I brought it out to finish it off.

That was when my problem started. That same night, I suffered from gastric wind in the abdomen. Was it coincidental with the expired soursop I had taken? I don't really know but when my wife tapped on my belly, it sounded that the whole drum section of an orchestra had just finished playing. Bom, bom, bom, my belly went. Nasty wind in the tummy. My wife applied some medicated oil to soothe it down and I felt slightly better after that.

We awoke at about four o'clock the next morning. My wife's company had organised a golf tournament in Penang and I had offered to drive her there. After that, I would have some hours to kill in George Town before heading to The Old Frees' Association in Northam Road to join some other members at this year's OFA durian party in Balik Pulau.

But my system was feeling queasy and I had to take a purge in the morning before we left. And I felt better after that. Much better to be relieved of the tension in my system. After dropping her off at the Penang Golf Club in Bukit Jambul, I went to the Esplanade to watch the sunrise. It wasn't spectacular or brilliant. Just a normal brightening of the morning and then the sun burst through some clouds. Was that it? Well, that was it.

The only other thing that interested me was the Espanade coming to life with people jogging, walking, catching a snooze under the shady trees, fishing and council workers clearing rubbish left behind by non-civic conscious people the night before. Some rubbish had fallen into the sea, too far away for the council worker to retrieve them and the waves disposed of them later.

By then, my abdomen had that funny bloated feeling again. I decided to cut short my time at the Esplanade and Beach Street (where the Sunday cultural festivity, Occupy Beach Street was going on) and rushed to The Old Frees' Association where I relieved myself for the second time since morning.

At about 10.15a.m., the bus left the OFA and we were on our way to Balik Pulau. As I had woken up very early in the morning, I decided to catch some 40 winks in the bus. Everything was all right until we hit the patch after Telok Kumbar when the road began getting windy. I woke up to find my head swimming. By the time we arrived at the new Balik Pulau market, I was all pale and green in the face. Every other people who saw me had noticed the change in my appearance. I immediately went to the toilet and relieved myself for the third time. Possibly, the nutmeg balm helped to relieve my discomfort too. But I must say that I felt much better; so much better that I found that I could even enjoy some of the durian at the farm.

Back home, however, I found myself strangely weak with very poor appetite. My wife had cooked some nice seafood vermicelli soup for dinner but I found that I really couldn't stomach it. My abdomen remained queasy and I had to run often to the toilet to let go of the accumulated gastric gases. As the two of us were very tired from the day's activities, we decided to retire early at about 10 o'clock. At 11.30p.m. I awoke with that now familiar feeling in the gut and rushed to the toilet again. Luckily, that would be the last time I had to do so. I slept soundly after that and this morning, everything felt quite normal again. Thank goodness for that.

The moral of this story is: don't totally disbelieve the old wives' stories. There must be some basis in the advice we hear from young. Fruits such as the soursop and chempedak must be eaten fresh. If already cut and kept in the fridge for a later consumption, it can possibly lead to a brief bout of food poisoning if we are not too careful. Wind in the tummy. Bloated tummy. Extended tummy. Farting. Purging, Vomiting. All signs of possible food poisoning. Not good at all and for one that had recovered from a bout of diverticulosis as well, it can be pretty alarming.  

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