I’ve always been drawn to people who love to eat and people who are avid cooks. This is the crowd that I choose as friends; they are not family and never lovers. Maybe it is because this particular segment of people offers a kind of life that is so different from my own. A life that revolves around the table, one of discourse about the immediate future (what will we eat later?) and one that is far less rigid in rules than my own.
Even as a child, as my parents moved from one country to the next, I always found solace in someone’s kitchen or in another person’s bowl.
In preschool, I went to Lisa’s and Elisabeth’s homes during the wet Canadian fall and chilly snow stacked winters. Their Victorian villas housed large family kitchens where we made smores on the stove and ate Chicken Tonight while watching cartoons on TV. When I returned to Penang to attend primary school, Shireen’s mum would bring lunch in a stainless steel tiffin carrier, and I would eat from that even though I had brought my own. In the mountains in the Philippines, I ate all-American Southern food at the Andresses.
If you know me, you know that I do not cook.
I currently have one frying pan to my name and I did not turn the stove on once in the first two years I lived in Singapore. This is the reality today, but this was not always the case.
One year when I was at university, I decided to stay in New Zealand over summer and work in the hostel where I was living. I spent my time in the company of a group of young men who were exchange students. Besides me, in our group was one Hungarian, a German, a Dane, a Swede and a Japanese.
As the cafeteria was closed and the boys claimed that they did not cook, we came to an agreement that we would pool our money together and I would cook dinner every night. In exchange, they would do the washing up.
In hindsight, I was fearless.
I do not think I had cooked at all before then. But I managed to do it somehow thanks to a copy of The Joy of Cooking I found at a second-hand bookstore and other cookbooks I borrowed from the library. Every evening, we sat at the table to eat, and when it was particularly silent I knew that the food was good.
It was one of the most memorable times for me; to be the person on the other side of the equation. The person who fed my friends. One recipe that really worked for me that summer was Blueberry Boy Bait, and let’s just say it worked just fine. Use this recipe from Smitten Kitchen.