A Heartfelt Recipe

“You know, cooking with you is different,” Best Friend says, in between observing me chopping up tomatoes for the tomato salsa we were preparing.
“Why?” I look up in surprise. I know Best Friend is rather hesitant in the kitchen, and she sticks to dishes she can cook. Give her a new recipe and her world is in chaos, temporary though it may be.
“You always know your dishes will turn out well.”
“But of course!” I give her my broadest grin.
“You never worry about the results. You know how it’ll turn out.”
I thought about Best Friend’s words sometime after I came home.
Did I always have this confidence in the kitchen? Did it run in my blood? Do I always know how my recipes will turn out?
In many ways, cooking is probably a metaphor for my life. I entered the kitchen out of necessity. I wandered into the kitchen so that I could cook myself a nice, hot meal whenever I arrived home from school, tired. I wasn’t going to eat the cold food and I certainly didn’t think of heating them up either. I had to learn how to switch on the gas stove, boil water, cook noodles and add stuff into it as I progressed.
As I explored possibilities in the kitchen, I soon took over cooking the main meals in my family. It helped that I never said no to the weekly market visits. I gutted “kembung” fish when my sisters all ran helter-skelter at the sight of bloody entrails. It helped that I wasn’t a fussy eater – I eat almost anything. I cooked all types of food, tasting, experimenting and re-testing them all. If the food failed my expectations, I told myself that I should try another technique next time.
Life is often like that. One learns to do things step-by-step, learning and unlearning along the way.
Which is why I never really worry about how my dishes turn out. Not in my kitchen anyway. I am always creating different things, from leftovers, from extra ingredients, from substitution and replacement of this with that.
Cooking is not rocket science. But cooking must be a passion. Short of sounding cliched, cooking MUST come from the heart. If you had a lousy day, stop and go get some pizza or McD. If you cook, the flavours will fall short. Your dish is as good as gone.
Maybe I approach life like a recipe. It’s not necessary that I follow the recipe strictly – I usually don’t. I add this, minus that. I mix this in, taste it, stir it and always have confidence that whatever it becomes, it is the best of what I can give. In the end, what it becomes is what I make of it and I personalise it. I don’t worry unnecessarily that it’ll give my guests a tummy ache.
Looking at it this way, cooking is pleasurable. No stresses. No expectations. No what-ifs. If it is too salty, next time, go slow in the sodium. If it is too spicy, I leave out a few chillies. My Best Friend on the other hand worries about RESULTS before she even enters the kitchen.
The tomato salsa we were making?
Turned out perfect when eaten with corn chips.

2 thoughts on “A Heartfelt Recipe”

  1. I am like WOW!!! Here’s where we are different gal! I cook something and all of us end up in the hospital tomorow morning! but I have improved ever since I lived away from my mother. Now, my maggee mee actually tastes like maggee mee…..maybe I am better at other things…like stunning people off their socks with singing instead.
    You stick to cooking and I’ll stick to my singing, gurl!!!

  2. haha….yes, i know you can sing well. you have a honey-coated voice. for everyone who is reading this blog, watch Femme on TV1 or is it TV2 on 12 July. Dear Marsha is appearing on that programme… being interviewed…cool…;-) and yes, I shall stick to my cooking and you to your singing.


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