Friday, 29 August 2008

Beef, bacon and eggs

England in 1992 was my first ever excursion to a foreign country.

My arrival at Heathrow was at least a week before I was due to register at my law school.

I remember full well the jetlag that floored me with a five-hour deep sleep in one of the many beds at the Malaysia Hall (the old one in Bryanston Square, not the one in Queensborough Terrace).

Being one of the few Malaysian students heading to Norwich, I was pretty much left on my own in making the relatively scenic and beautifully colorful travel to Norwich in Norfolk on board a bus.

I had read enough about Norwich to know the whereabouts of the local YMCA bed and breakfast for a week’s stay whilst waiting entry into one of the many student residence of the university.

The stay was uneventful, except for some extreme difficulty with regards breakfast.

Just like it is with hotels etc, breakfast was also major event for the YMCA with its many tenants queuing for their share of the days’ meal; albeit the typical British breakfast combo beef, bacon, eggs (scrambled or omelets, and almost never the sunny side up variety), beans and bread.
The typical British breakfast
Unfortunate for me the eggs would be invariably sandwiched between the beef and bacon everyday; the reason being to allow the juices to add plenty of flavors to the omelet according to the B&B’s cooking staffs I spoke to.

All and well for the other tenants, but I’m left with having bed and butter every morning for the whole duration of the stay.

The same predicament became apparent during my early days of entering the student hostels.

I cook my own food, and lengthy stretches of eating vegetables, fish and all things seafood, the hankering for meat was beginning to feel quite insatiable.

What else can a Muslim student - in a town he barely knows - do but to choose the only other alternative (said to be, at least) available and that alternative comes in the form of the local Marks and Spencer kosher meat offering.

Much later when I began to broaden my social circles did I manage to secure much needed Halal meat courtesy of an enterprising Arab from Cambridge (about 90 km away) who would arrive in his van every weekend to replenish supply for his student customers.

Marks and Spencer fresher offerings were more to my liking, but, really, beggars cannot be choosers, and if frozen beef and chicken is all there is, frozen is good enough.

Ramadhan allowed some luxury for the campus Muslim students with free meals for the breaking of fast supplied by those who came with their families. Most of time, the staple meat would be mutton, and it was quite an eye-opener to taste the many styles of cooking the somewhat heaty meat.

Breaking of fast would be after the Maghrib prayers within the tight confines of a room designated as the campus mosque.

Cut to the present.

Being Muslims in a country where Islam is not the official religion tests self-discipline to a whole new level as it starts right from the food you eat to keeping the deadline of the daily prayers.

Taking the easy way out is always present as a convenient escape route for those without the necessary willpower or faith.

Back here in our country, Malays are deemed Muslim by birthright and everything is conveniently pre-packaged to the point that the effort its takes to be a good Muslim is lost and taken for granted.

A question of self discipline and faith

A question of self discipline and faith

Anyone for beef, bacon and eggs?

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