From My Heart


June 2010

Cooking Mishaps

The kitchen is a wonderful place. It is where you cook. Of course. It is, for some, the busiest and most dynamic space in a house. The kitchen is where things change in a matter of days.

More importantly, the kitchen is where love and friendship grows. Memories plastered in every wall, on the working tops, the stove and in the oven. It’s amazing, really.

I like cooking. I wouldn’t say that I’m a very good cook, or that I’m passionate about food, but I do like it. When you add on close friends and family, like becomes love.

As with everything else in life, of course there are occurrences and discoveries and mishaps, and that makes cooking (and life) even more exciting.

What have I been doing all these years? Hmm….

1. My mom asked me to help her deep-fry three small fishes for lunch. The stove was outside my kitchen. Mom told me to fill in half the wok. And so I did. Then I asked my mom, “Emm…we’re almost running out of oil…” The gardener looked at me. Mom came to the kitchen, “how can we run out of oil?”
Then she realised that I used the big big wok for the fish…

2. We have just settled in Dublin. So we decided to prepare some nasi lemak. So we cooked the rice, boiled the eggs, fried the ground nuts….but the sambal took forever to cook. We added more water, and more water, and more water….it was almost an hour when we finally think that it’s ready!!
Well, we THOUGHT that it was cooked through…when we ate it, it was sooo hot! But we ate it anyway, happily. Our first nasi lemak overseas. How can we forget?
We learnt later on that if you want the chili to be cooked through and quickly, we must use a lot of OIL, not WATER….hahaha…anak dara…

3. It was my second year (1st med) in Dublin, my juniors and I decided to have fried rice for dinner. It was nice, but it was…..emm….let’s just say, the next morning I was studying and I heard one of them throw her bag into her room and crashed into the bathroom!
Extra HOT!!!!
Lesson two: use fresh chili, not chili powder.

4. Post Eid. The third winter in Dublin. I held an open house in Malaysia House with my brother and my juniors. My parents were scheduled to come on that day. We invited almost 100 friends (and some families). Nurul planned to cook some chicken curry and ayam masak merah. So we divided the chicken into two and we cooked them all according to plan.

The funny thing was, I told my then-18-year-old brother to calculate the amount of chicken we needed. So he did some calculation in his mind, and blurted out, “four whole chickens”. I trusted him, said ok, and so we had that amount to cook.

We only realised that we had wrongly calculated the portions AFTER we’ve finished cooking – and that was 3am the day of the party. The shops were, of course, closed, and we wouldn’t have time to make some more the next morning, with the level of ‘expertise’ (or the lack of it) that we have.

Well, luckily my parents came, and all the beef rendang and peanut sauce and ketupat and lontong came through the immigration. Hence our 100-over friends had a great time that night!

5. Eid 2003. It was near exams. But I just had to cook some meals. At least Eid wouldn’t be so sad. Luckily I had Tau around.

I prepared the batter for bholu contong (small cupcakes). My grandmother and my mom has been making these cakes for Eid for years. It’s my dad’s favourite cake when he was a young boy.

While I prepare the rest of the dishes – rendang, kuah kacang, kuah lodeh, nasi himpit – my brother could help out with filling in the cupcakes and checking the oven. What happened was, he put the cupcakes into the oven and left it to play ONE song on his guitar every time. The result? Very dark brown little cupcakes. Arghhh….

6. Our fourth winter in Dublin. Post Eid. Another open house. This time around it was in our apartment (my brother and I). Lucky for us, for the price we were paying the lounge was huge and could accommodate many friends.

Of course, learning from the year before that, we prepared enough chicken.
The night before the open house, Liza and Nirda came to help. We were going to have some roti jala and nasi minyak – both to be eaten with chicken curry. I have prepared the chicken curry and the peanut sauce (which, thankfully, tasted soooo good!). So when they come, they only had to help me with the roti jala, and the cornflake cookies, and the cakes….

The WHOLE night was spent to prepare the roti jala for 100 hungry people. I practically counted the number of it. We had two “acuan” for roti jala, so we could do it together. Nirda fell asleep on the couch by 4am, whilst Liza and I stayed up until 6am. Gone was my beauty sleep….one would’ve thought that sleepless and cold nights like that would prepare you for on calls later in life…..hahahaaaa….

As Tau fell asleep a little earlier than Nirda, he had to wake up earlier and clean the kitchen, of course. His first impression when he stepped into our kitchen was, “What the h*** happened in here last night???”

Well, it looked like that we had a “roti jala batter fight” that night. Splashes of batter could be found on the walls, on the cabinet doors, and even on the ceiling and window!!! Haha…..what happened was, the holes on the mould were blocked with clumped flour, so we had to sort of knock those moulds on the edge of the batter basin. Of course, they splatter all over!

The next day, all of the roti jala was eaten away….it was soooo worth the hard work. 🙂

7. December 2003. I made some chicken rice as it was winter holidays and Sarip came visiting from Malaysia. While the rice in on the stove (I use the stove instead of the rice cooker, because I cooked for 10 people), I had to go get something from Tesco across the road.
I told Tau to watch over the rice. He said OK.

I came back and the house smelt like fried ground nuts. “I didn’t cook nasi lemak, did I?” I asked myself. At the same time I heard my brother playing his guitar in his room. Then I got it.

The rice was a little too overcooked…and the bottom of my favourite stock pot was all black and stuck with rice!!!

Of course, I had to re-cook the rice with whatever chicken stock I had left. But all overseas medical students are hungry, so they finished both the properly cooked, and the overcooked rice.

* * *
Well…that’s part one. The early years. I might put up part two, or I might not. I’ll see. There’s still Penang and Selayang. Yes, even after years of (on and off) cooking, mishaps still occur. We’d eat whatever’s prepared, anyway, and of course, laugh it off!

One thing for sure, these mishaps has strengthen our friendships and family ties.
I guess we’d all look back with stitches of laughter, and love in our hearts.


Father’s Day

This week I had a chance to see three elderly fathers take care of their dying sons.

And tonight I saw two of them say their final goodbyes.

One man came from an hour away from here. Every morning he would dutifully come and care for his 23 year-old ill and bed-bound son. He’d clean his son’s swollen face, his bleeding mouth, wipe his sweat. He’d feed his son, even though the boy could not eat much. He’d try to talk him out of his discomfort. He’d attempt to reassure the young man that everything is going to be alright. While at home his wife is taking care of the lad’s own little boy.

Yesterday he got to know that his little boy is sick at home. He wanted to go home, and the father anxiously talked to us to let them go. And so we did. So with a lot of effort, his aged father pushed him in the wheelchair, hoping that they both would arrive safely at home.

Another man is ill himself. He’d come in a wheelchair, his own legs swollen, to visit his dying son. He’d sit in his wheelchair for hours. He’d sit there from the afternoon til night. His ill son preferred to lie on his lazy chair than the hospital bed. So his father would sometimes lie on the bed.

This evening he sat outside the side room, as always, on his wheelchair, his legs both swollen, eyes tearing.
He had just seen his son pass on in front of him.

The third man is the one who touched my heart the most.

His son is exactly a year older than my boss; he’s 40. He had only been unwell recently. When he was brought into the hospital last weekend, he was already very ill. Of course, he wanted the best to be done for his beloved son.

His son never got better. Days passed and he only become further away from health. His father faithfully came everyday, of course, to care for his son. His hair grey, his back a little hunched, his face concerned with a little frown. He’d take turns with his wife – he’d be there on the day, and his wife at night.

We could all see that it’s really difficult on him. Caring for his son, at the same time being a good support for his wife, who’d still hope for some kind of miracle to happen. He had to keep the family together. His other son and daughter were out of the country.

I could clearly remember the day we all talked to him. With a calm face he said to my boss.

“I know. I know how he is now. I know that the worst might happen. I could accept that, if that is fated to him, for us to lose him. But I’m his father. If you ask me what I want for my son, of course I want the best for him. I would want everything to be done, before we give it up to fate.”

Tonight, it was evident that he has accepted his fate. That he had to say goodbye to his son first.
It was clear that it was heavy on him.
But it was also clear that he would stay calm and composed.
Because he needed to be. For his wife. For his family.

For his beloved son.

* * *

Happy Father’s Day to all fathers out there.
If all fathers were as responsible and loyal, the world would be a very peaceful place.

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