Archive for July 28th, 2010

What it means to me

I have a long day at training tomorrow and should have an early night, but I have been lying awake for the past hour, just thinking, thinking and thinking….

I’ve decided to take the plunge and set up a stall at a Rotary club international food fair held at the end of August. It’s sort of a trial run before the food fairs at the universities in October, which is a bit ironic since the Rotary food fair will be held on a much bigger scale with clowns, pony rides, showbags at all. So far 60 stalls have already signed up but they are looking for Malaysian and Indian food stalls. *Cue the drumroll*  Daitaoha makes her entrance.

So Richard, Gerry and I have been bantering around ideas for the Malaysian themed food stall all night. What should we sell? Should we go mainstream or authentic? The boys were all for the idea of going mainstream and keeping with the Western palate of mee goreng, and nasi goreng, and chicken curry. But I wanted so much more. I was thinking ‘Malaysian chicken cooked 3 ways’ ayam masak merah, ayam pong teh and kari ayam, I wanted to introduce nyonya style cooking, traditional Malay cooking, I didn’t want to be sweet and sour chicken with fried rice, if you know what I mean.

But I knew it wouldn’t work and no one would appreciate it except perhaps for deprived Malaysian students hankering for hometown food. Gerry and Richard said that all the dishes would look the same, just curry and lots of chicken in various shades of orange. I knew they were right but I was devastated.

I don’t know why I am taking this so seriously and I think the guys are secretly perplexed and slightly amused. But it is serious for me. I know, it’s just food and anyone who talks to me probably thinks ‘this girl is just food crazy, it’s just food, it gives you energy and keeps you warm for goodness sake’. But it’s so much more to me. I don’t think I could sell food that I think is just average and below par. I can hardly cook a bowl of instant noodles without thinking that I should add something extra to it or garnish it with some chopped spring onions or coriander.

How do I explain it to people who think I’m crazy? It’s not just about going to 3 star michelin restaurants and marveling at the genius of Gordon Ramsay (even though that’s pretty great), food evokes emotions, memories and wonder for me. There is so much pleasure in trying new recipes and discovering that they’re really tasty, or when your cake comes out from the oven and it’s fluffy and fragrant. Or when your honeycomb cake has the right holes. Or when your friends are really pleased that even though it’s not 100% similar, you can still eat a bowl of Sarawak laksa in faraway Perth.

When my brother arrived home in Kuching after his long plane ride (2 days?) from US, we expected him to want to shower, or rest, or sleep. But he drove the whole family out to this place which he says ‘has the best curry rice’ and honestly, the curry rice was just average. But for him, it was so good, because the curry rice place is near his high school and he used to go there all the time with his schoolmates after school for a plate of the ‘best curry rice’. And after spending a whole year abroad, that’s what he wanted to go home to.

I feel the same way about a lot of Malaysian food and about my mother’s cooking. It’s more than just food to me.

Does anyone get this? Or am I just really and truly food crazy and just plain greedy?

July 2010