Apr 1, 2010

Love Is... Part 10

I was born with many medical problems since young. My parents worry for me, my health and my future for as long as they know of it. Due to that, my mom spoilt me since young. She never allowed me to do anything. My sister was different. She did everything. I lived a very sheltered life. Everything was done for me. Like a little princess. All my aunts and uncles doted on me too. They all knew I can't cook or bake and never expected me to whenever we had potluck gatherings. I often go empty handed.

The greatest fear my mom had for me was that no man would want me. Because in her eyes, I was like a pirate. With the numerous scars on my face..(I have 3!). In the old days, almost every girl can do something. Sew, clean the house at some point, cook..not bake(coz baking wasn't the in-thing back then). I don't know any of these things. So when I met Benny, and finally got married, my mom worried that I couldn't be a good wife. Her conceptions of a good wife is the one who stayed at home, tended the house, mind the kids and cook!

I have big shoes to fill in..the pressure was more to please my mom than to please Benny. Benny was very forgiving. In the first year of our marriage living in our first home... our kitchen and pantry are empty. Okay, maybe a couple packs of instant noodles. Since I couldn't figure out cooking, I didn't buy anything.

My mom taught me 3 dishes: Fried Bean sprouts with salted fish, Steamed Fish and basic soup dish. That's about it. And she said all other food/dishes are cooked the same way. She didn't think that cooking rice was important too. She used to think that since I am an accomplished Software and Hardware Engineer, cooking rice in a rice cooker is literally chicken feed to me.

And I realised soon enough that while my kitchen was fully equipped with all the tools, utensils and gadgets, one thing was missing..

the Humble Rice Cooker!

I rang my mom, but too shy to admit it, so I spoke to my dad instead. He told me in theory how to measure water ratio to rice. And he drove to our house and got me a rice cooker.

Thank God for Dads...

So I tried to cook simple meals every day. After work, I would rush home to prepare the meals. I have no idea what to cook. I have no one to teach me. No one I could ask for help. My mom would only tell me in theory how things are done. There was never any practical lessons.

I remembered my early years was spent in silent tears. I felt so inadequate and such a failure. Benny tried to please me. Every dish I put on the dining table, he would eat it. And to show how much he appreciated my efforts, he literally clean up every morsel of food on the dishes. There was never anything left for us to keep in the fridge. But I could see that he is trying very hard to swallow some food. Its often not tasty enough or too salty or too sweet. I cooked dishes based on how easy it is(at least from the cookbooks I was reading from). Not based on what he wanted to eat.

After a while, he started to tell me about the food we eat outside. How he loved a certain range of food. Mostly Western cuisine. He loved red meats and the occasional salads. And he loved spaghetti too. And I remembered Aunty Aileen used to cook a her famous spaghetti with minced beef. So I rang Aunty Aileen for help. She taught me the basics.

Slowly but surely, Benny became interested in my cooking. And whenever we went , he would tell people I could do a very good spaghetti with meatballs.

I started to cook because of him. He loved me more than I would love myself. He never expected me to do anything for him. He was always doing things for me. Always sacrificing for me. Always there to please me. Since he loved to eat, I figured its the only thing I could do for him. So started my quest to learn to cook. But only for him. Along the way, I got better and better and you now see why and how.

And he made alot of things easier for me by telling me what he like for dinner that day or lunch for that matter. And he often try to make it easy for me by suggesting a one-dish meal. Rather than to have 3 dishes, 1 soup and a rice to go with it. I started this way..in cooking.

Along the way, I got very good due to practice. So it became our ritual. He decides what we eat, I have to figure it out how to cook it. Then tell him what ingredients are needed. He would do all the shopping and paid for everything. Soon, he became adventurous with my cooking and bought home alot of exotic ingredients or he would tell me he ate something nice outside and hopes I can do it at home. Then he would bring me to that place to eat it so I have an idea what it is, how it tasted like.

This was how I learn to cook. Along the way, I documented everything. Every step of how its done. Because I figure that someone out there will be in my same predicament too. So a guide of how to do it, dummy's guide would be most effective. From a layman's point of view.

I became very effective in my cooking. My mom gave me a large cleaver knife and taught me how to use it. Till today, its the only knife I know how to use. Although I have many other knives at home, I don't use it.

You probably heard of all kinds of love stories out there. Some real, some fake or fiction. But I like to think when it comes to Love, its never fake or fiction. Its for real.

It is only when you love someone, all things are possible. The impossible made possible. Look at me as an example, I can't cook, or bake or tend the house or mind the kids. But now I can. Whenever Benny eats the food I cook for him, he knows how much love has gone into making it, perfecting it.

So our love lives every day..in the things we do for each other. You may ask how its possible that we stayed so lovingly for so long? In the simpliest of all things...in the food he eats.

The old saying that goes "The way to a man's heart is through his stomach". Its very true.

Whenever I had to travel and be away for a period of days, Benny would eat out. Once I am home, just an hour or so I would seen in the kitchen. To cook. No one could understand how and why I had to do that. All my friends think Benny controls me or orders me around like a servant. But I never felt that he was ordering me around. When he ask me to cook something for him, it means he is saying " I missed you, I loved you...."

I remembered my last overseas trip was last October 2009. I was home at 6pm plus. We went out again, to buy ingredients for the next meal. He wanted Laksa. That's a one dish meal..but very elaborate and so much preparation to do. I made all the preparations of the laksa paste that very same day I landed in Singapore.

And while I was at it, I also blended and fried some extra spicy paste to go with the noodles. Then the next day, I woke up early to prepare the dish.

Whenever its time to eat, I would serve him..like a king. He gets the choice meat, condiments. When the kids came into our lives, I still serve him first, followed by the kids.

All my friends think I am crazy. Well, yes. Crazy and in love. Still crazy all these time. Benny still decides what we should eat each time should I cook at home. If we go out for food, he decides where we should go. But when its time to order food, I never choose, although he kept asking me "do you want crabs? " Because I loved to eat crabs. I often say "whatever you want".

Whenever we ate at a food court or hawker centre, he would whip out his wallet and give us $10. So we can choose what we want to eat. And buy the food. When I am lazy or too tired, I will tell him "I'll just eat when you are having. And less chilli please!"

Here are some food photos..
Dinner some years back. Western all the way. The bread is also home made.

Sambal eggs

Mee Rebus..we had this recently. 2 hours before my class starts I was still cooking it!

One of Benny's favourite Asian snack was Crystal Dumplings.

But his all time favourite was this " Stewed Beef Tendons". This was one dish I took a long time to perfect just for him. Now a dish which I only cooked for our family get together dinners.

Love someone? Show it. Don't hide it. Love isn't Love till you give it away...

End of Part 10...


Anonymous said...

what a beautiful and touching story you wrote, keep up the great work!

Anonymous said...

Fm what I hv read so far, Benny is really angelic. Gina, you are one lucky woman. In fact, both of u look somewhat alike - at least in terms of physique. You two are made for each other.

Regrettably, I will have to wait for my next life to find such an ideal person.

Tania said...

you've come a long way from the gal who can't even cook rice!!!! now you can cook practically everything....all for the name of love.