It’s taken me a while to recognize that the nearly month-long period I’ve spent on my couch watching Netflix is not, actually, mental health “me time”, but really depression. The reasons why could be any number of things (my husband blames CNN), but that’s really secondary. It’s the realization that counts.
It took me long enough. I mean, the signs were all staring at me in the face. Binging the first season of “Gilmore Girls” and forming strong opinions on the sub-par quality of Lorelai Gilmore’s friendships with other women? Watching and re-watching “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” for fashion tips from Aunt Zelda and Madame Satan? Watching any episodes of “The Good Witch” ever, at all? (1. These are all Netflix-related; 2. yes, I have watched every episode of “The Good Witch” ever made; 3. and no, I have not found a suitable replacement, Netflix suggestions be damned). It’s become obvious I have been depressed, and for a while now. The silver lining is that the sooner it’s recognized, the sooner I can find a solution. Of course, my solution mostly involves food.
I unpeeled myself from my couch long enough to trek to Chan Road yesterday, a heroic Odysseus-like journey that for me involves a couple of motorcycles and multiple Skytrain stops. The reason why stemmed from an iPhone message I saved from February 2017 courtesy of my friend Nat, who said that fairly authentic (what a loaded word) Teochew food could be found at Hia Wan Khao Tom Pla (2 Thanon Chan, 02-211-0829). I am no expert on the cuisine of the Teochew region (where most Chinese-Thais hail from), but I can say with certainty that this spot checks all the boxes that one would expect from a great fish porridge place: the ice-laden front counter bearing all the fresh varieties of fish on offer (in this case, grouper, regular pomfret and deep-sea pomfret), the gentleman owner overseeing all from a perch behind the cook station, fresh bateng (soy-glazed pork) to accompany every bowl of porridge, and brown bean sauce (here, two varieties: regular and slightly spicy) on every table.
There’s more. The place is almost strikingly clean, even by Thai shophouse standards: gleaming tabletops, obsessively tidy dining accoutrements. Besides the namesake fish porridge — heavy on the deep-fried garlic flavor, rife with thin-cut slices of fresh pomfret, perfect with the slightly spicier brown bean sauce — “recommended dishes” include a plethora of spicy salads (yum) of various varieties of seafood as well as different seafood steamed with glass vermicelli (ob woonsen). There are special soups of gently poached pomfret in a pickled plum broth, fragrant with lots of ginger and Chinese celery. They even allow you to make-your-own-porridge, mixing and matching all of the ingredients displayed in front. And it’s a Michelin Bib Gourmand eatery, a fact I discovered from the cover of their menu. It’s hard not to find something to like, as long as it’s seafood.
As for the depression, I am taking it day by day. I have stopped listening to Post Malone, or reading about Lena Dunham. I am making time for friends. I am trying to limit my CNN time. I still find Chris Cuomo sort of attractive, but I am working on it. There is no cure-all for something like this. There is just the motivation to find a reason to peel oneself off of the couch, every day, whether it is fish porridge, or going to the gym, or buying a bag of Doritos.