Sunday, November 2, 2008

A Brilliant Suggestion

'Mum, where are you?' The reply? It's almost guaranteed that my Mum will be in the kitchen! My mother comes from a traditional Chinese family where the women are expected to be able to whip up superb home cooked meals. My grandmother strongly believes in the old adage, 'a happy stomach makes a happy family.' She has successfully instilled this notion in all her daughters by insisting that they learnt how food was prepared and watched her cook whenever possible. It was a tall order but it paid dividends.

This 'ruling' coupled with my family's love for gastronomic adventures explains why Mum has spent half of her lifetime there cooking up a storm! She will be doing a hundred and one things; scrutinising her recipe cards, measuring and preparing ingredients, bobbing in and out of the wet and dry kitchen, endless stirring and tasting of what's brewing on the stove to achieve 'just the right' consistency. Oh, how I admire her patience! I figure that good cooking must be all about having a healthy dose of patience and perseverance. Does Mum ever complain? Oh yes, the occasional sigh of dissatisfaction especially when she can't perfect a dish. The determined look on her face that says 'Don't play, play with me!' (borrowing the perennial quote of PCK!) Come what may, she will then fish out her recipe card and go back to the drawing the amount and experiment with all the ingredients until she makes the dish rocks!

As for me, I will embrace every reason to gravitate towards the kitchen! The wholesome meals, the heart warming ambience which is a balm for troubled times, the cacophony of sounds and chatter, story swapping, the scene of many homecomings and happy memories. It always ends up the fullest and noisiest room in the house.

The emblem of Mum's kitchen is her old crumpled Manila files which house a wealth of kitchen information! Mum seems to have the answer for everything; recipes for popular traditional and modern delicacies, solutions to unusual cooking problems, tips on cooking techniques and baking equipment. The wear and tear, numerous dog ears, reminders and notes of thanks are a testimony to the many occasions that she has been sought for her advice. It has never crossed my mind to share her kitchen secrets until a chance meeting with a journalist who was looking for old pictures of Kuching. We stumbled upon black and white pictures of an Iban woman cooking in a typical long-house setting and a Malay man grilling satay in the 1960s. (The pictures have been posted on the blog.)

Shazam! The bulb lighted up! She mooted the idea that I start a blog about Borneon cooking which would give invaluable insight into the vibrant cultures of Borneo and their culinary fare. I have decided to expand the concept further by including cooking hints and solutions to everyday kitchen and cooking problems. The first thing I will definitely do is to browse through my mother's old Manila files! I will also run general quizzes on Borneo fruit, plants and vegetables from time to time. I would also welcome contributors who would like to post a recipe, a cooking tip or a solution on the blog.

And to Loretta, thank you for coming up with this brilliant suggestion.

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