I remember Freddy. He was a fellow Hongkonger whom I have met back in my university days. It was his first year in the UK, still imbued with Hong Kong culture. While for me, I had been soaked in Western culture for two years ahead of him. Hanging out with him was an interesting experience. He reminded me of myself when I first arrived in the UK and faced a foreign culture. Though I must say, I embraced Western culture more readily than he did.
It is hard to say if I was really into Freddy. We got along well, in the sense that I was and still am an adaptable person. He was a scholar and I wasn’t (though after four years, we both graduated as first-class honor). Very smart. Those who didn’t know him may find him arrogant. I just recognized the fact that he saw this world in a very different way compared to the rest of us. We had common hobbies and interests. Or rather, I have learned to develop common hobbies and interests with new friends. That is what I do.
Freddy introduced me to Pink Floyd, for which I am eternally grateful. Pink Floyd has inspired my music creation journey. We would talk about Shine On You Crazy Diamond night after night and would listen to it non-stop. Pink Floyd was our thing. I would head to the gigantic Blackmores bookstore in Oxford to read their biography. I would browse the magazines at WH Smiths to read their latest news. In fact, I have attended Pink Floyd‘s live concert PLUSE in the UK. That could well be their last gig in a ‘full band’ setting.
Freddy has also introduced me to escargots. I vividly remembered the expression he gave when he described the dish … it was so delicious, so out of the world. Eyes rolled back, all white. Fingers near his mouth, breathing in deep.
Initially, I found the idea rather repulsive. I could not imagine myself eating snails, no matter how starved I am. Then, I have done some research. These are not regular snails. These are farmed snails. Very much like frogs, I guess. I ate frogs when I was in Hong Kong. Frogs taste like chicken, in case you are curious. They really do.
I cannot recall when was the first time I have eaten escargots or whom I was with. What I do recall though is that when I was in a business trip working in Paris, one of my favorite starter dishes would be escargots. Either that or the live oysters.
If I am asked to describe escargots, I would not have done that Freddy impression. What I would say is that with the melted butter, the herbs, and the unique chewy texture, escargots really go well with bread.
One French friend told me that the escargot meat doesn’t belong to the shell it comes from. The farms supply the meat without shells. And the restaurants reuse the shells. I do not know how true it is. He or she might have pulled my legs.
Fast forward to yesterday, Y had dinner. Instead of oysters, she had escargots the first time (both are my favorites). I don’t think she was thrilled. But, that has triggered all sorts of memories, Freddy and my Paris business trip. At the National Gallery of Singapore and in one of the exhibitions, there were framed photos of snails placed on top of sand and dirt on the floor. That also triggered my recent memory, when I walked back home and in my condo and especially on a rainy day, I often saw snails crossing the path. I would carefully pick them up and put them onto the grassland knowing very well that they are in fact pests. I hardly see snails in my condo these days. The management office must have done a good job of exterminating them.