February 8, 2016 § 1 Comment
Remember about two years ago I wrote about how silence is golden? My late cousin has a bookshelf filled with an old collection of good reads since his college days. I shared how we managed to find a little piece of note with a lovely quote inside. A quote that reminded us how to be present to life and experience love?
Today I took two of his books back home: Jack Keroac’s On the Road and Henry David Thoreau’s Walden & Civil Disobedience (and a bottle of half full Nikka Whisky, very important). This time I decided to read up on Jack Keroac’s life before a long indulgence. He dropped out of university, wrote books that were not well-recognized until much later in his life. As much I would not want to believe that all starving artists only get recognised after they have died or moved on with their current disposition, I just could not help myself to think that the first try will always be a hit. We aren’t all Lady Gaga.
Through this entire writing/baking career, I just felt a little discouraged by how my current society or majority communities perceive certain values as unorthodox. We all want the truth but hide behind inconvenience, comfort zones or complexity. How is it that we all want to find peace or awareness and not realise that happiness/sadness must co-exist?
I started writing a book about my travels 5 years ago and have not come close to even finishing it. Somehow, I just couldn’t bring myself to acknowledge that people would want to read about an adolescence psychology student switching her career to culinary; arriving just two days before school started in the big USA for the very first time in her life.
I was the only Asian girl. Walmart was a freeway with 6 lanes away from my motel. I did not know anyone in the country. School ended at 1am everyday. I made friends with ex-military officers and my chefs ran the school like an army. It was quite awesome.
It has been a long journey since then. Not long enough to be honest. I always feel that I could do more, write more, learn more before I could publish anything or open a bakery. But who knows?
For now I will keep writing.
To my cousin, who constantly wanted to “go back to the roots and see beyond conventions”…
a simple and sincere account of his own life, and not merely what he has heard of other men’s lives – Henry David Thoreau
Happy Lunar New Year everyone!
February 6, 2016 § Leave a comment
be yourself, everyone else is already taken – oscar wilde
As written on my recent post on Instagram, there seems to be a reflective orbit circulating around my earth.
As sentimental as anyone could be, I am a very nostalgic person. I collect bus/train/plane tickets from most of the travels, keep old letters from my god mum who diligently wrote to me weekly during my college days, organize fashion editorials just because, store love letters from old lovers, keep movie stubs I’ve seen with people I don’t want to forget etc..
It’s hard and easy to erase great moments, yet we hold on to so much I sometimes wonder if it will stop us from focusing on the moment.
Last night, a friend shared he felt that i ‘skipped a chuck of my childhood and there’s a forced seriousness.’ I reflected on those thoughts genuinely, only to realized I had always held the inner child back because my surroundings nurtured me to do so. Yet, beyond it I have a compelling interest in journaling, baking and exploring the world. A yearning to keep staying true to my own soul, and find other similar kindred spirits.
The “forced seriousness”, did not happen overnight. I had always been a curious child and was naive as a horse. But moving cities, dealing with personal issues and gaining awareness can change a person’s perspectives to life. When you start feeling responsible for yourself and others, your actions and thoughts change.
You no longer make food for one, do laundry for one, pick up things for one and so on. And even when I was living alone, the community I’d lived in felt like a family and instinctively I had the urge to take care or look out for them. I could not graze by life without understanding fully who my neighbours are, where my food comes from and how can I learn from them. I am constantly seeking for a community to devote my time/love, invest with people who invested in me.
Recently, a part of me has left the kindness planet or what I presume it to be. I have grown an intolerance for people who either don’t appreciate or take it granted that I will always be there. But then again, don’t we all? Working in the kitchen or in this industry has made me a brutally honest person. We get the job done by giving straight instructions and move forward. Then again, that does not mean that we are not kind to one another. The culture we tried to build has been one of a kind but sometimes go haywire under pressure. Nevertheless, knowing each other very well, we take these outbreaks with a pinch of salt and laugh at them with a pint of beer at the end of the day.
Emotions, I’d learnt, are not us. They are a simply an egoistic side of your mind taking over your body and thus letting it gain control of any circumstances.
Honesty, to me, has been an awakening consciousness wanting to be relinquished in starlight, shined through the darkness and into the sun.
With every bit of that light shining through, I am hopeful to find acceptance in others and sincerity with life.
A coffee friend once said to me: “It is really sad that people take away coffee, and that they cannot even spare five minutes to sit down with their cup.” To us, we rather not serve/sell you that cup, because we don’t see the value in it since you don’t value that time.
For many consumers, they just care about the money they pay us to deliver what we ought to, but what we must do and what we should are two very different things. And there are a collective group of stubborn, honest and pure like-minded people, who are sincerely determined to change this perception. Slow down. Sink into that awareness. Find the space between yourself.
For this coming new moon phase, I hope to never lose a sense of wonder, grow deeper in meditation/running and share more harmonious experiences.
January 26, 2016 § Leave a comment
So we are sitting here behind our screens, reading/watching the rest of the world face late winters, very hot summers, and extreme weather change. This global climate change we are all experiencing is expected.
People don’t want to hear it, they feel uncomfortable acknowledging it, they don’t want to change their behaviours because it’s just too much to ask for.
But on a very grand scale of the universe, we are one big family trying to sustain ourselves. When we realize that money is more important than the food we eat, we might be behind. In fact, I think mother nature is already giving signs that our natural resources are depleting immensely.
Money can’t give us time to grow a corn field. It can’t give us clean water like how the water cycle does. It can’t give birth to bees and pollinate flowers/trees which give us oxygen to breathe.
Beyond all the ways we try to save money and help the environment with gas/electricity/water, the only other way which essentially would help more than 50% in saving earth so that we can continue to sustain ourselves is reduce the consumption of meat/fish.
People ask me why am I vegan and how can I work in a kitchen with meat/fish. They ask, how is it possible for me to taste the food before it gets to the customer’s table. How do I know it is delicious, how do I know it is done?
I spent the first 17 years of life as a real carnivore. And when I say real, I mean if there is no meat in any of my meals, I would not even touch it. When we started learning about environmental issues in geography class, something happened. I started changing the way I eat, shower, buy clothes, etc. Not only did I realized how much I changed, my family’s lifestyle change as well. They stop buying as much meat, we started dining at vegetarian restaurants and spending more time with nature.
But as years go by and the longer I work in this food industry, I’d realized how much more detrimental and unaware we are as humans. In order for us to please customers like you, we use an unaccountable amount of water/electricity/gas & effort/care just to make your dining experience worthwhile. Now don’t misunderstand me, I do enjoy a grand affair of fine dining or scrumptious meals just like everyone else. I do find a deep satisfaction in cooking and serving my customers. But I do strongly believe in sustaining ourselves more than that? At the very end of it, I would without a doubt choose sustainability over anything else.
Being part of this industry is merely just a way of understanding and spreading this notion. We can’t bake the cake and have it too.
We can’t anymore.
Cowspiracy brought more awareness to our issues. It’s not just mine, it’s yours as well. Remember we are family. I may not know you or spoke to you before, but we share the same moon & sun. As far as the wind can blow (which according to El Niño is quite damn far), we share the same oxygen. If you burn your dry leaves, I will breathe the smoke. If you overfish your ocean, I will have nothing left (to serve my customers and feed my family). When you buy all the good produce,the next person will only have the left overs. It’s sharing and caring, thinking for the next person before yourself.
Live simply. We don’t need much. We already have too much.
January 14, 2016 § 1 Comment
Like any other folks out there who have been in this industry for donkey years, we all meet people from various backgrounds. And by various, I mean a heterogeneous collection of eccentric or nonconformist individuals from all across the globe. They cross paths with you not simply because they wanted to be exactly where you met them, but due to grand leap of faith they took, to be where they were/are.
Nevertheless, there are far and few who know very precisely what they are doing and where the path they walk leads to.
If you happen to follow them, the road less taken is certainly more exciting than promising & rewarding than reassuring. These individuals, have ideologies and philosophical values that translate into food. Food that speaks their language despite if those were their first few words they spoke growing up. Cooking that gave them life because they experienced the emotions that went through making a meal/dish. Meals that gave them intimacy yet acceptance with everyone around them because where everyone comes from does not really matter as long as you enjoy the conversations at the dinner table during a staff meal and pull through service together.
The last three days in a new kitchen was interesting. New faces, different menu, fun techniques, and quirky conversations. Yet it felt like home. The daily run to the wet market but at a fair distance away from the restaurant. New fresh seafood and greener produce to play around with. Larger. Dynamic. Yet, also familiar.
As Chef M said:” if there is one thing you need to learn in Hong Kong market is that they will always say that everything is good for soup. This, soup. That, soup!”
The Cantonese love their soups until their hearts bend. So that’s what we have had for every staff meals, soup. Cabbage pork soup. Spicy chicken soup. Fish tofu soup. Curry soup.
It certainly brought me back to a spring Tokyo. When the air is still crisp and cool, perfect for a warm broth under the sunny daylight. But when night falls, and with the full moon up, we often found ourselves sniggering into eateries with scent of dashi stock perfuming from the entrance. A force of attraction with a deep iron or aluminum pot that comes up to my waist, seems to stew up the best umami slurping soup. It is filled with hours of patience and wisdom. Subtle to the taste but unforgettably heartwarming.
My last trip to Hong Kong was short and very sweet. Not only did it allowed me to reconnect the dots with the previous Japan trip, but also open a whole new opportunity to learning a different cuisine and (crazy) crew. Coming back to Singapore, I could not stop thinking about the fresh ingredients at the wet markets. Despite falling ill upon arrival, I insisted on grocery shopping and picked out a large white radish (daikon) to continue my little culinary experiment in the kitchen.
This perhaps isn’t the most authentic way to do so but if you are trying out for the very first time, I assure you that it will promise a decent side dish to your soba or udon bowl.
1 large daikon, skinned, sliced 8-10 cm long
a handful of white rice
bowl full of ice cold water
5 cm kombu (kelp)
3 cups of water
3 tbsp of usukuchi (light soy sauce)
1 tbsp of sesame oil
pinch of shichimi or a light crack of black pepper
1. Blanched the daikon in pot of boiling hot water with white rice. After 4-5 minutes, dip into ice cold water.
2. In a deeper pot, place kombu and water, add in the daikon. Let it come to a roaring boil, then simmer it for at least 1 1/2 hours or until a pairing knife tips goes through the daikon effortlessly.
3. Let it cool completely in the stock. This might take the whole day or best let it sit overnight at the cool place on the kitchen top.
4. Once the daikon ready, transfer them on a kitchen towel or cheese cloth. Pat them dry.
5. In a medium small mixing bowl, whisk usukuchi, sesame oil and shichimi. Gently place daikon, spoon the sauce over them evenly and over it with a cling wrap for at least 30 minutes.
5. Serve it is or add a little bit more usukuchi, or chili oil/sesame seeds/grated horseradish to your pleasure.
January 3, 2016 § Leave a comment
“the traveler follows a vertical path, moving simultaneously towards the bottom of the earth and the bottom of the sky. the tourist follows a horizontal path, remaining on the surface of everything” – Alejandro Jodorowsky
It was a long year. A very long stretch that will leave scars and marks, happiness and joy. I visited three new countries, Bali in April, Japan in May and Switzerland in November. A surf trip, a quiet retreat for the soul and an adventure with my mother. I rediscovered my current city, which never seems to be heartwarming in every nurturing way.
I left a home, physically, but know that place will always be filled with warmth regardless of the bad memories or tears. My customers of various gender and ages, have became my closest friends. They welcomed us into their lives with open arms & heart. Perhaps gratitude is selfish, but we have been vulnerable & caring within the community. It is in the way we show how we care and concern with one another.
Surfing have taught me how to ride with the waves. Simply to sit out in the ocean and wait for the right moment. The first few attempts were futile. Nearly impossible to get up on a foam board and juggling to balance. Then the duck dives or roll overs, and drinking salty waters. We were pushed and pulled. Wiped out and dropped in. Either way, for every waking day, I was by the beach by 7am and straight in the ocean. The bruce was absolutely worth it, even if I might sound rather sadisitic right now, which I believe most beginner surfer can relate to, every fall was a stepping stone towards riding the next wave.
It seems that everyday was similar to riding waves. Paddling through life with our daily routines and waiting to take on the right ride. The way we ride is in the choices we make to simply put up a fight or just “roll over” some moments.
The hardest part in surfing is going back. We all know once we start riding a wave to the shore, we have to fight through the currents and salty waters again before reaching to a point when its safe to “sit out”.
And dont we all seem to do so?
How do we do it? By playing it safe and sitting out or swimming through every wave until we are reading to balance on the board? Those moments are very short but exhilarating at the same time.
It also dawned upon me that more than not, we want these special moments to last forever. When truly it can’t. The time you spent with your family or friends can only be special because they are short-lived but yet remains in your own memory for a long time.
The laughing jokes, the good meal, a brilliant performance or even a kiss, are permanent. If we can try to stop wanting things to last forever, then we can learn how to be contented with what we have. Appreciate the present time and take solace in the now.
Walking up the slopes or around the majestic snow capped mountain, became our daily guide to how to start the day. The unexpected snow storms or bright sun, brought in a cosy day in or a lovely hike around the country side. Either way, there wasn’t a dull day, despite that most ski towns are shut in November.
It much depended on how we felt inside. Rather than letting mother nature affect us, one just really have to go along with the surroundings.
Waking up at 6 am to visit the Matterhorn was one of the most memorable events this year. We arrived Zermatt on a wet evening but was extremely determined to take the train up before noon the next day. The locals were discouraging us, so were all the weather forecasts. Yet the little hearts of ours just couldnt leave the town not getting close to the mountains.
And so we did.
Dressed up in multiple layers, walking through the ghost town before dawn and taking the first bahn up.
I ended the year with great company and started it with much contemplations about what lies ahead. As with all things go, I know better now which wave to ride and when to sit out. Yet, never take it to heart when I don’t balance properly or fall. At the same time, you can really almost never know when the best ride you can take happens. It’s almost like finding the best cup of coffee in town and yet be surprised how much better it taste from one day to another.
there is something impermeable about the sunrise
first day break
the initial light
to know there is an opportunity for renewal, rejuvenation and awakening
allowing ourselves to rejoice and bathe in the quiet before setting forth
happy new year folks !
July 23, 2015 § 1 Comment
Hello there! How are you doing? I’ve been sitting on this thought for a while now. The thought of writing here again. I haven’t found the courage nor feel like I have the ability to write. The last few months have been a subset of unconfident, poor time management and low self esteem.
During the period of time, I have done some traveling, meditating and more mindful yoga. But the fact remains that I am still fearful of being judged or pointed at for my wrongs more than my rights. That feeling has created a big gap between me and everyone who seemingly wants to encourage good growth. So how can this two ironic terms of “fear” and “encourage” can come together?
Well, let’s start with this. Mother Teresa’s famous quote “If you judge a person you have no time to love them”. The industry I work in is filled with judgmental folks who will criticize you even before you step into the door. The car you drive, the way you wear your pants, the bag you carry, the type of coffee you order, the way you leave your food unattended and to the very last minute we greet you goodbye. It doesn’t stop there, we will still continues to come out with ideas of who you are and what you do.
But that is just how it is. We don’t have time to love our customers if they don’t fall into our check list of yay, and instead of having an open mind we just cross it off, well most of the time at least. Because between the mad rush of services, the demands you want us to fulfill and answering to our bosses/family members and so on…. We just don’t have the time or energy…
And time, as I had learnt, can be an illusion. The past and future come far between what is happening in the Moment. We cannot experience the past, we can remember it, it isn’t happening Now. We cannot predict or feel the future for sure, it is how the mind “projects” it to be. So that leaves us with, the present. Right at that moment when we can and should be fully committed to our values, philosophies to life and our best. But so often fall short in doing so….
The other negative side of thoughts come from the mind. The mind which lives in the past and future, not the moment. It feeds on it to tell us that we need to survive. The past experiences which taught us what to do and not to do. How we got yelled at and so we will not do it again. How we’ve been brought up, our childhood playtime.. How we felt loved and know how to return to that simple experience so to feel loved again. How we choose to walk away from people because the past is more significantly remembered and we don’t want that in the future.
I can hear your thoughts, well Denise isn’t that what all human beings go through? That is entirely right but that is how I’ve learnt that there will always be missed opportunities, no forgiveness and ultimately, no love.
I had concluded that somehow in a rat race society, humans demand more under pressure. We yearn for more because when under that intense energy to fulfill a task or race through the finishing line. Our heartbeats go faster, we breathe deeper, we are more desperate, more stressed, and in the end demand more from everyone or everything because after or during the stress period, we wear ourselves out emotionally,mentally and physically. Find coping mechanism to fill in this gap. We demand from our families, loved ones, the next person we meet and maybe even to the stray cat outside the office.
This is how breakups, divorce, violence, wars and etc starts.
The best healthy way to cope with it? Anything that brings more awareness to your thoughts and doings. With that being said, it is very different from being self absorbed, which is insensitive and ignorant. To be aware is to have a very simple open mind, clear away the negativity, listen attentively, respond with kindness and stray away from the old pattern of conditioned thinking.
I have been reading Eckhart Tolle’s Power of Now. It is perhaps one of the most mind blowing yet simple and truthful book I’ve ever read. It focuses on the moment entirely and how one should be more self aware/mindful.
If you go, “yes I do that everyday”, but why are you still at a crossroad? Then perhaps it is just a conditioned mind pattern that you are in and cannot get out off. After all, everything is a matter of perspectives.
Today something really odd hit me. I’ve been thinking of my late cousin again and how little time we spent before his death. How when he first left, I felt a painful regret and grieve, that util today I cannot forgive myself for not spending the last reunion dinner with him. Simply because I was too busy buzzing tables and serving customers. I bought some sunflowers, his favourite, and recalled the happy times we had with his wife and dog.
At the same times, some friends came for advices about people going to leave their lives. It felt like a fortunate event, ironically, that they know the timeline. Even though it is vague, the “knowing” is all there is needed. Because when one “knows”, one becomes aware and present to that matter. They could choose to spend more time with each other and be completely mindful to each other’s thoughts/feelings/actions.
The past will wear my sprit down, the future with my cousin is tarnished. But what I can always do in any present moment is to know that we shared happy memories and in many ways, he has influenced my writings and thoughts. In that moment, is all that really matters.
I doubt I can ever achieve being present to every moment. But that would be a lifelong goal to fulfill. Be positively aware and conscious of the Now. Not let other’s egoic mind or my own be in between the space of love, joy and happiness. To surround myself with the same like-minded people, plant a good thought into seeds and watch it grow into beautiful trees.
Surrender is the simple but profound wisdom of yielding to rather than opposing the flow of life
May 28, 2015 § Leave a comment
if this is fiction or not fiction, its up to you to decide
At the moment, everything seems to make sense, the little signs, the seemingly laughters and the big changes
There was a shift of focus, i was suffocating the other emotionally, there was no escape in trying to let go of negativity. Instead I captured the heart of it and squeeze the juices dry, so he found a way to run away from this. A new hobby, a new obsession, an excuse to get out from this clouded mind. I don’t blame or can’t point fingers. I mean look at this pathetic soul asking for love and attention, a listening ear and an understanding heart. Who wants it? What is there to appreciate?
So we dive into materials, finding comforts in them along with the company. Whether it was right or wrong, it was new, fresh, and made you feel free.
Priorities changed. Started making time for less meals together, less quality time and more “phones on the table”. The free days together were spent apart, the time spent together was not momentarily happy or spelt love. There wasnt anything in common anymore. Once lovers, now strangers.
“Why wont you allow me to do this or that?”; ” I didnt tell you because you would say this or that”;
Sometimes even enemies when we start yelling at one another and became less patient. Because our priorities changed, “we” was less important and “we” couldnt make either one of us happy.
Emotionally needy/suffocation; independent/interdependent; afraid of confrontation/in need of opening up.
They tried to help us, we tried to help ourselves. But one couldnt help one another or supported each other without making the other feel small. Stubborn. Immature. No more forgiveness or tenderness. No more love left.
Here I am, having to restart the button, ground zero, having nothing, but to pick myself up again and move.