I learned to cook from my mom, whose instructions were, “it’s just a little bit of this and a bit of that.” Who knew, decades later, what she taught me became my mantra too.
My mom was born in Singapore and met my Dad in Malacca. When my parents moved from Malaysia to China, then Hong Kong, she had to make do because she couldn’t find many Malaysian ingredients.
It was fascinating and hilarious to hear mom’s stories of chickens laying eggs on her pillow. She didn’t learn to cook till after she got married and she didn’t enjoy cooking at the beginning. My mom was multi talented, I don’t know how she juggled 5 kids, taught at a Boy’s School, gave private tuition, was a Cub Master, as well as taking lessons in crochet, ikebana, cooking and piano. She had such an infectious laughter, she would set off and get us all in hysterics.
When my sisters and I were shipped off to boarding school in England, circa 1970’s, we were at a loss how to imitate her delicious dishes we grew up eating. We would call her up and I’ll never forget a simple thing as using the right vinegar could make or break a cucumber, tomato, onion pickle! She served that with Spicy Malaysian Chicken Curry or Char Quai Teow to cool us down. We were hooked on that pickle and to this day, I make this whenever I’m making a spicy dish.
Some of my fondest and best childhood memories were of cooking with mom and my three sisters. What a blast, there was so much giggling and silliness going on, we wondered how we ever got dinner made. To this day, those memories come up whenever I cook. Certain smells of curry leaves, sour tastes from tamarind, sounds of a sizzling hot wok and even the way I peel and score down the cucumber to make a pattern and release its flavors bring back such vivid associations of food I grew up with.
Just the act of preparing dinner for my husband and myself makes me feel I’m taking care of our health and our well being and my mind goes into a state of a relaxation. Being in the moment, appreciating the action of chopping vegetables or stir frying in my cast iron wok, the wok my mom introduced me to using all those years ago!
Now, decades later, whenever my sisters and I have our reunions, we always cook together and reminisce about how fun it was cooking with mom. And now, I get to share everything I learned from my mom to help you cook at home the same way I learned from her, except easier and faster.
I’m telling you this story because if you knew how cooking with your family can bring such joy, such creativity, such happiness, such incredible memories, you’ll be inspired to start your cooking journey and experience those feelings I have when I cook.