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Monday, May 30, 2005

Things I do when I miss home (II)

Beef Kway Teow Soup
Originally uploaded by
My Little Rascal.
There are times when I wish I could just nip out to the hawker centre and indulge in some char kway teow or hokkien mee or chai tow kuay.

Sometimes, I crave simple things like teochew muay or hainanese chicken rice - relatively simple to make, and most of the ingredients are within reach at the local supermarket.

But other times, I have to rely on my other senses.

Look at this picture of Beef Kway Teow taken by My Little Rascal. It's part of an entire set of photos - a Singapore Food Picture Library. You can almost see the steam rising from it. You can almost taste the tender meat, drink the savoury soup, bite through the white soft noodles. A whole cornucopia of culinary superstimuli.

I love the concept of superstimuli. Most people have heard of Pavlov's dogs - how they salivated to the sound of a bell when they came to associate that sound with feeding time. Many people have witnessed japanese koi swim themselves into a frenzy to the sound of hands clapping.

The power of stimuli.

Superstimuli refer to stimuli that seem to overpower the senses. It's frequently used in advertising to entice the viewer into making a purchase.

McDonald's commercials are very good at this - a perfect looking burger with crispy looking lettuce and juicy red tomatoes. How many real burgers have looked so pristine?

A good example of the sort of behaviour that superstimuli can induce is a recent study on the behaviour of seagulls.

Mother seagulls have a white spot at the end of their yellow beaks, and baby seagulls will peck at the white spot a few times to induce their mother to regurgitate.

Hold a stick with a white spot at the end of it near the seagull's nest, and baby seagull will peck at it a few times in the hope of obtaining food.

But hold a stick with white *stripes* on it near the nest, and the baby seagull will peck at the stick non-stop until it faints from exhaustion.

The power of superstimuli.

This is probably why I torture myself with these pictures of food that I cannot obtain. Because just by looking at these wonderful pictures or reading the descriptions on these blogs, I can smell and taste the food in my mind. And I can close my eyes and hear the sounds of Singapore and the clamour of the hawker centre.

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