Monday, January 28, 2008

Kitchen Tales.

Ok. So I've been lying. Partially. A tiny bit.

All those time I've mentioned that I can barely find time to indulge in my favourite activities and hobbies (take reading a novel for one) when my hands are practically filled with household chores, despite the fact that I may appear to have all the time in the world seeing that I'm still on my prolonged holiday study break. Well, the part about the having all the time in the world is fairly true and the part about the endless household chores... kinda. Of course, any systematic and organized suburban housewife will tell you that with a little proper planning (and less indecisiveness), she'll surely get some alone time where she'll get to indulge in her fantasies. Considering my domestic skills are slowly but steadily blossoming growing into the likes of foreign maids and cleaners hired by mothers of the Upper East Side community, added with my unquestionable planning ability, I do get some time off my shoulders.

Rare as they may come though, I still fill those little free times I have in the kitchen, enhancing my culinary skills. Surprising as it may sound, I do have an undying dream of becoming a chef one day. If there was a secret identity in everyone, mine would be the hopeful chef. It's more like a longing to want to be able to prepare meals for myself and others. Call me delusional in believing in myself, considering I own a pair of hands which works no better than my feet in holding a spatula. Mind you though, I've gotten comments by relatives that I've got the looks of a chef while they struggle to strike up conversations concerning me and my future if my camera wasn't in sight. Nonetheless, I usually dismiss those conniving compliments since they're usually associated with my extraordinary body size. Not that I'm not flattered when someone sparks a hope on that secret dream of mine.

So, whenever I'm done with my laundry, ironing, swe
eping and mopping, dusting, dishes etc. etc., plus that sudden hunger pang as encouragement, I'd pick up the pan and the knife and spend about 2 hours of the afternoon in the kitchen, waltzing around while listening to E! News' cover on Britney's shameful breakdown on the television. I have to admit though, at this point, my cooking skills are only limited to frozen produced food, I still enjoy cutting up the lettuces and tomatoes for garnishing and the pure joy of having the liberty to handle your meal in whichever way you want. For an amateur like me, every session would just feel like an adventure. I mean, I barely know the As and the Bs in the kitchen and with no one watching my moves, I'm pretty doing things according to instincts, which, to be frank, wouldn't help me in cooking to even save my life. Exactly, how much is a pinch of salt? Cause I seem to be always giving it too much of a pinch. Don't even get me started on the burnt hashbrowns and overcooked tempura fish. Oh, we all learn from mistakes.

I guess all of these started back in December when jie was around and when we discovered the convenience of cooking with an oven (it saves you fr
om all the oil splatter by a pan), instead of placing a pan over the stove and the many nights we were lazy to go out for dinner. To be thinking of it, that month itself, I've cooked up quite a lot of mid-afternoon snacks and quickie dinners with the oven and microwave. You know, we were busy teenagers with electronic cooking devices and no certain mealtimes. What did you expect? It's just a shame I didn't care much about recording anything back then. No photographs or whatsoever. I guess I was more into joining in the fun than recording it for later. We did manage to cook up pies (Banana Toffee Pie to be exact) on several occasions last month which totally broke my skepticism that Asians are incapable of making pie.

Caramel filling.

This shit is bananas. B.A.N.A.N.A.S!

Pie maker.

Pop it in the oven.

On several other occasions, just the other day, I mad myself some breakfast - consisting of hashbrown, scramble eggs, a burger (only edible after the second attempt) and a glass of juice. A week before that, I even made some mashed potatoes with a random mashed potato recipe taken off the internet. Oh, I do own a shameless amount of cooking recipes pages, bookmarked and just a click away for that cooking fix. And the mashed potato turned out ok, I guess. Let's just put it this way, it was left unfinished on the table till moss started growing over it on the third day which forced me to dispose it. I wouldn't take pictures of that, no way. Of course, those were the few things which I psyched myself to do almost on a weekly basis. Still, I wouldn't dare offer anyone a meal that I would prepare completely by myself. At least not till I'm ready. The occasional breakfast I prepare for the cousins and sister, well, that's just because I get feedback from them and they trust me enough to put the food I prepare into their mouth. Not that my cooking is bad, is it now?

Breakfast for one?

Can it look any more palatable?

On another note. Being the child on a study break and to be
giving the misleading signal that I own all the time in the world (I kinda do for now), I've been helping mom a lot lately in the baking department, with the much anticipated Chinese New Year around the corner. This year, it appears that mom's coming full circle again, baking various traditional cookies and delicacy for the season after a lengthy two years hiatus since the death of kong kong. She's keen to do everything that she knows from the recipe book in her mind, result of many years of learning from women of the older generation. If I didn't know mom's real age, I'd say she pretty much came from the older generation as well. Like always, she's still amazingly capable of finding time to satisfy her baking cravings despite her being a full-time working mom. So far, we've already come up with three types of cookies for Chinese New Year - kueh kapit, kuih bangkek and ribbon biscuits produced usually in apoh's three bedroom flat. You'd be surprised by how these women are able to defy all odds and turn the flat into a confectionary of some sort just for the sake of keeping the traditional alive. The only thing is, mom refuses to go commercial with these cookies. She doesn't want to sell them. She still insists that they remain in the comforts of our own family and as gifts to visiting relatives during the new year.

Kuih Kapek from matrianklw on Vimeo.

And being in the boat that I'm in right now, I'm expected to be present on every baking session, dutifully helping out in whichever ways I'm needed and often, being caught up in the conversations amongst the women of the older generation. Sometimes, I'm even turned into the subject of conversation which could be pretty embarrassing. Besides that, mom has planned her schedule out this week nicely to make way for two more types of delicacy - the peanut cookies and sugared potato chips. To be honest, these names are quite tacky. The real pronunciations for all the delicacies (usually in the Hokkien dialect) sounds much better. Also, since this will be the 1st year after so long without akak's impeccable skills, mom would be fulfilling her duty as daughter-in-law and try to whip some traditional dishes for the celebration. Just imagine, 7-8 years without taking charge in the kitchen - she'll be needing all the help in the kitchen. Marketing itself would be a pain in the butt. Don't get me wrong though, she's a great cook, just a little rusty on the side.

But there I'll be the dutiful son by her side, carrying the marketing goods and chopping up carrots and cabbages (if I'm ever trusted upon these tasks). Until my time finally comes, I'll still be under the shadow of someone more experienced and no doubt, elder. I'm still working on gourmet meals, if you were ever wondering. Oh yes, and jie will be back this Sunday which only means another companion to the above chores.


~Bee Nee~ said...

ah, making cookies as a clan is always the best way to go, I'm killing myself trying to make everything on my own =)

savante said...

That's a whole lotta meat for breakfast! I like!