The Art of Cooking

Why is it different to make cekodok ikan bilis over here as compared to home?? I put in exactly the usual ingredients (duh, like how hard can making cekodok be?).. I used to make it all the time. It was like, one of our official tea time kueh apart from fried bananas (‘cos I don’t know how to do anything else). Hubby used to finish the whole plate all by himself. And my sister likes them, even ‘Lil Tash loves them so much. Crisp on the outside, soft on the inside.. Unlike this morning. Crisp on the outside, too-soft-like-tak-masak kinda inside! I did several trial-and-errors. Fried a bit longer.. lowered the heat.. raised the heat.. added water.. lessen the water..

But it still wasn’t the same like home. It’s a good thing housemate A said they’re “OK-lah” and ate them anyway. Housemate B commented “Macam tak masak”.. “Ikan bilis you pun macam tak masak”. That’s just awful. Especially when it’s over nothing elaborate. But in the end, having remembered that housemate A prepared a similar cekodok lembik last week, she concluded that it must’ve been the flour. “Lain kot tepung kat sini”.. Can like that, meh? Or is it me yang tak reti masak??

Two weeks ago we invited several Malaysian girls (our former hosts) to our home for dinner. I served them nasi ayam. As much as I tried to emulate my meal back home, it just doesn’t taste the same. Nor did my masak kicap or masak lemak on other nights, for that matter.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Cooking used to be a taboo subject for me, before I got married, that is. I was hopeless. The only thing I could do was fry an egg.. and perhaps relish it with some onions and kicap. Nasi pun kadang-kadang lembik, or too hard. When I got married, realizing that it’s not possible nor is it acceptable to feed my husband Maggi every weekend when we meet, I decided to turn over a new leaf and learn some cookin’. Admittedly, hubby was never one to force me to cook. He was happy eating anything with me. But maybe that’s because we’re newlyweds. Come five years, he might be wailing.

Anyway, with some effort (a lot, actually, as I was pregnant at the time and stayed home alone with my sister who was on shifts 4 days a week) I cooked. I started with the easy, non-smelly stuff like chicken. Fried, souped, masak kicap, masak merah, ..Then I broadened my horizon with meat. Similar fashion. After several months of chicken and meat, I got tired of it (hubby was too, only he was kind enough not to say anything), so I braven myself to try fish. Then prawns.. And later squids. I remembered the first time I siang ikan. Mami.. cam nak pengsan! All the gore and blood.. the insides.. the SMELL. Makes me wish I had an assistant just to do the cutting for me. But I learnt. Slowly, yet I did.

After ‘Lil Tash was born, I stayed with my mother-in-law during confinement (yeah, spooky) but it has its blessings. I learnt to cook some more. She is a terrific cook, with capital T. And a housewife. So you can imagine how well-fed all her kids are. I guess she must’ve cried every night at the thought of her dear son eating nothing but telur goreng every weekend with me in KL (thankfully, she didn’t object to our marriage solely on that reason). She was a great teacher, by not directly teaching. She never made me cook, as I was still wearing my barut and socks, but she knew I was watching. Despite my miserable attempt at being nonchalant, she knew I was looking at the steps, or ingredients. And she let me look. So that was how I learnt. Through observation, while helping her dice and slice.

For those who know better, cooking is not something you can study or watch -you simply need to DO IT. So when I resumed work, I knew I had to put my newly acquired ‘knowledge’ to practise. We’ve already had our kitchen refurbished during my confinement, so I had an extra motivation to do so. I tried those recipes that I observed.. masak lemak, masak kurma, asam pedas, kari. Not much, but far better than my initial state. Soon my parents- and sisters-in-laws started to pay us visits. Guess it’s their way of checking up on me, now that I’m a mom. Some time later, I attempted other recipes that are simple and not suicidal in the process. I tried nasi ayam, soto daging (bergedil and all). I even managed to cook crabs, though they scare the hell out of me. For deserts, since we don’t own an oven, I could only do stuffs like trifle, frozen cheesecake and kek batik. Boleh-lah..

Now after our second anniversary, I can safely say that my husband and little girl will not starve to death. I can do a bit of this and that.

But then, this morning happened. Ugh. The tension. Am I losing my touch? If I ever had any in the first place. Huhu.

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