Monday, March 13, 2006

Family Cooking Tradition

Apparently, many people learn cooking from their mothers at a tender age. While for me, the tradition in my family is to learn on your own. My mother didn't teach me how to cook. And my grandma didn't teach my mum. My father's mum didn't teach any of her children too, although she was once a very a good cook. That's why I feel so envious when someone tells me that they learned cooking/baking from their mum or grandmum. Also, one thing I observed: All the celebrity chefs learned cooking from their parents at a young age!!!

My mum once told me that she couldn't fried an egg until I was 9 years old. ( She was 33 years old then) That was after our maid left and grandmum decided to retire from our kitchen. You can imagine how stressed out my mum must be. She had to cook for the whole family, including her parents in law. My mum later admitted that she had secretly threw away food that was hardly edible, and recooked the dish again... Well, she was using that as an example to encourage me to cook in the US.

We have a very well equipped kitchen back in Malaysia (including an oven,kitchen mixer and other accessories a competent baker needs) This is because my mum is a good baker. She has been baking since I was 10 years old. But she never really teach me how to bake. I remembered begging her to let me bake a cheesecake on my own, or rather teach me how to bake a cheesecake, so that I can bake one on my own one day. She would only show me how to beat the egg whites, how to fold etc, but forbid me from getting my hands dirty. Mum doesn't allow me to go near the oven either even after I grow up. She still worrys that I will hurt myself if I am not careful enough.In short, the spacious and fully equipped kitchen (including the lovely oven)was out of my reach. My intimate relationship with oven only started when I came to St Louis. I LOVE to use oven to bake my food, from breakfast waffles to a decadent dessert. Mum was so worried when I told her that I used the oven almost everyday...

Last Saturday and Sunday night, we had Fried Beehoon as dinner. I told OCT that this was the kind of food that reminded me of my mum's cooking. But the irony was that it tasted absolutely different from my mum's fried beehoon. I used tamarind paste and fish sauce, while mum's used soy sauce. I wished I could have learned more dishes from my mum before I came....But on the other hand, it could be a blessing in disguise. For I wouldn't have tried some many different condiments and combination in my cooking, if I have already mastered mum's recipes. In retrospect, what I have cooked for the past 6 months are so different from what my mum cooks. For example, mum doesn't cook beef stew and salmon. And I don't cook steam chicken and fish.....

This gives us chances to trade recipes the next time I go home. Or maybe not.... Mum is not the most patience person when it comes to cooking in the kitchen. She couldn't stand the sight of me peeling potatoes. She said I worked like a snail(too slow to her).....and she always accomplished so many things in a short time, while I was still struggling in step 1 of a recipe.Maybe I am never a patience student too. For everytime I was being criticised, I would storm out from the kitchen and give up on learning from mum. I can't remember a single time we both worked happily in the kitchen together. We are always the most critical critic for one another when it comes to cooking. So we always leave each other alone when one is cooking. Maybe that's why I never have a family recipe from my mother. The thought of this makes me sad. I pray that one day God will give us both patience to be teacher and student in the kitchen.

I think I will continue to use tamarind paste and fish sauce to fry beehoon. It will be my own family tradition that I will past down to my next generation. It's simple and different from what you will get anywhere else.....

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