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September 21, 2017 § Leave a comment

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(green apples, kale, currants, chickpeas, carrots)

First counselling class touched us as much as a warm hot soup made by your grandmama. Soul was quite a charm owning the circle of new students whom he barely knew. We barely know each other too. But after that 3 hours, we felt right at home and at ease with one another.

I had wanted to drop this module because I did it before. But going through the concept questions was a breeze. Social psychology and counselling had always been one of my favourite subjects in university. As the class went on, he brought the attention of our own judgement towards ourselves. How often do we judge and how often does that translate to us reflecting statements or paraphrasing them to mirroring our own souls?

A large part of our daily actions or words are carried out because of what we are innately not largely because of the environment we are in. As time goes by, I am more grounded. Perhaps it comes with age, as I take an observer role rather than to par-take in any activities. To take two steps back before acting out, it does feel much better this way.

Yesterday, I spent four hours in the A&E room. I had an infected spider bite and the pain/swell was intolerable. As they lance out the bite, I passed out briefly. There was no painkillers (I am hyper allergic to them) or anaesthesia. Just raw pain. I shut my eyes and held on the space between my brows. When all was done, a plastic cup of ice water came to console.

Second week down under. Hospital visit, check. School, check. Running mileage/crossfit/yoga done. Cooked and baked for family, done too. Still looking for a space to call home.
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(cobb lane cafe‘s very moist carrot cake)

Today was a mixture of exhaustion and calmness. After a few days of waking up at dawn, having interval sleeps, trying not to get blood stains on the sheets (and still failed), long reading list and keeping the body warm; this soul is beat.

It’s finally Friday. Let’s hope for a better weekend.
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September 12, 2017 § Leave a comment

New beginnings come with challenges. I have yet to remind myself how long it takes a person to climatize to a new environment. After moving so many times, one would think you would have cultivated a habit or some sort of theory to adjusting. Somehow, this move has brought in old haunts. The deep seated insecurity and fear of unsucceeding. It isn’t just so much about career anymore. It’s also about the environment, people, food, relationship and life, holistically.

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To put the self in this cold waters and commit with steadfastness. Lets throw ourselves into vulnerability and shine light on it. So often when the balance is not met, I fall off emotionally. Sinking into a negative cycle of nervousness, unthoughtful words and overdosed of caffeine. When I meditate, I watch this person turn into a lifeless sourdough starter. No yeast or lukewarm water can justify its’ ability to proof. Perhaps, best to just throw it away or start again. A painful tug of war and dull repeated affair.

“Haven’t we been here before, old friend?”

I pledged to not feel this hurt. Nevertheless, here we are. New place, new path, same fears, same tears, sleepless nights. How can we help ourselves to be better?

Do not put judgement on that soul. It is loved, dearly. An unevenly baked scone with a layer of golden brown caramelisation is still as delicious with a thick knob of butter and dollop of homemade fruit jam. At least at this point, it is forgiven and enjoyed.

I have yet to feel that way. A life long journey to forgiving the mistakes and let others bring light in. I have waited long enough to want an unrequited loving devotion. I have wanted to get out of that city. I have yearned to accomplish a new course.

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I borrowed my first book at the school library today. Naturopathic Practice by James Hewlett-Parsons written in 1968.

“Only the harmonious balance between physical, mental and psychic attributes of self can produce true health….. Health comes only as a result of man’s conscious observance of natural law and his living in constant harmony with his surrounding vibrations and his innermost forces. There is no other way.”

One could only practice this fully by being a life-long student. So here we are. Another blog post, another cold day, new country, and this same soul documenting her naturopathic journey. Well of course, there will still be food. Melbourne is a plant-based diet eaters’ haven. I have yet to find my favourite spots but for now, this little town outside the city has my heart.

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of having enough 1725

August 31, 2017 § Leave a comment

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A sudden sadness came on the last night of leaving. I am usually very reluctant to have a goodbye or the last show before a departure. But this came with as much resilience as insecurities. She said to me that our fears get the better of us, that we are more resilient and independent than we think we are. Truth is, I have been resilient and independent almost in all my younger adult life. Traveling on my own, seeking for growth etc. At some point, I asked, what is the meaning of doing everything by myself? It hit home. A twist to a story of a solo traveller seeking for companionship or similar hearts. Don’t we all go through life only to be more ourselves and to have people more like-minded? To share thoughts, feelings and dreams to those who took the same interests and make them flourish ?

Easy to say hey? As strong as we are, as vulnerable the heart could get, the complications manifest. But as time passes, meditation has taught me to resolve them by letting the tears flow, let grace in and trust. To learn how to surrender onto earth and let the ego mind dissolves.

Today was hard. It might be harder tomorrow, or easier. Nevertheless, thankful for the little things that will come by.

heritage

August 29, 2017 § Leave a comment

IMG_9344.jpgIt has been barely 24 hours since I touched down, my head is still lingering in a heritage sphere. One would wonder how deep an impression a city would make after a couple of days. How my feet remembers the little lanes between a main street, or how my heart allows the scent of cumin spices to pursue the next dining destination, exploring the preserved local architecture, or simply just letting the island’s indecisive weather depict our routines.

Penang has always had a special place in my heart. As a younger family, we would visit relatives and friends over the holidays or special occasions. All other random visits would either be a result of serious food cravings or missing good company.

This trip emerged slowly. We had no plans for anything but to spend quality time together. We spent the days mostly sleeping in till unlikely hours and waking up to local food on the table. An array of char kway teow(fried wok-hei filled noodles), steamed local sweet corn, nyonya kuehs (sweet treats), freshly sliced pineapples and homemade kopi. Then we would head to Hin Bus Depot, an old bus depot turned art exhibition centre, for yoga, a photography event/workshop or a walk around the flea market.

The flea is filled with artistic vendors, recreating traditional prints, clothing, food with new materials or homegrown products. A nasi ulam stand calls for own grown ulam (herbs), freshly folded into turmeric rice and sprinkled with tempeh crumbles. A bookshop decorated with old tiles painted with images of historical sites and calligraphy stationary sets. At this point of the day, I am already feeling spoiled with an abundance amount of good food and great company in an immensely enriching environment.

A kefir soda maker and her daughter who manages the art space behind; a graphic designer turned bartender/cook who runs the retail shop, The Swagger Salon; local beer brewers, Red Door ; Wholey Wonder, vegan/yoga studio; and the resident cat, Eugene.

Where was I when all these home-grown talents were transpiring?

Somewhere at the other side of the world, searching for answers to questions I yearned to understand.

How do we make ourselves relevant to society? How do we preserve what we have and still change what is needed? What is needed?

All things are relevant. All these are subjective to its own usage. Money. Materials. Time. Distance. Food. Clothing. Art. Car. A house. They all mean something to us fundamentally but conjured up different interpretations.

I used to think that having three meals a day was a necessity. But realised we could make our own eating choices without looking at our watches but simply by asking ourselves, are we hungry?

I used to believe that growth is tearing things apart and letting new materials take over. But learnt that growth can start from understanding what the past gave us and using new materials to help preserve its authenticity, without damaging or hindering what the original maker had intent for it to be. Now that’s, craft.

 

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Some evenings were spent dining out but when circumstances allowed, I could feed the family. One of my favourite family meals dishes comes from Nigel Slater’s first Kitchen Diaries. I initially made this as a psychology student in Leeds. We had a big house party with young college students, which called for simple finger food and cheap beers or cider. This time, Lemon Peppercorn Roasted Chicken Wings were paired with sautéed seafood, fried rice and pork rip soup. A rather intimate and slow affair compared to the youthful days. We also took the chance to bake cakes for tea. A staple Grapefruit Yogurt loaf and vegan Chocolate Banana Walnut brownie. I couldn’t bring myself to tell them its dairy & egg-free. I couldn’t bring myself to understand how rich and moist that loaf was. It was perhaps the best vegan chocolate cake I’ve ever concurred. They say, wisdom comes with age. Perhaps, baking experiences are the similar, so to speak.

On a sleepy Sunday, I woke up early and followed his mum to the local ban san (a hokkien slang for wet markets). We walked around the busy street with vendors trying to get our attentions, buyers grabbing  fresh produce, ingredients, snacks, and so forth. I stumbled upon an old bakery, where they still use their barehands to fold wet cake batters, proof breads and use margarine for nostalgia.

I stood at the counter too long to their likings and observed them manoeuvre from counter to counter. Their quick punching on proof doughs, prudence in tipping breads out from hot pans and carefully wrapping cooled pastries were so well orchestrated. I wonder how long they have been doing this. I wonder how many times the lady had asked me what I want when I lost all awareness while in the baker’s trance. She finally grew impatient, and left me alone. I continued staring gleefully at the perfectly season deck ovens, stainless steel trays and arrays of pastries. How long have we been doing this in our own backyard and yet search for greener pastures to create trends? Have we grown impatient or bored of ourselves? How does creativity prevail while we have little appreciation for authenticity or simple craftsmanship?

The food we eat these days has heritage. It is nostalgic for the flavours, textures and environment. But the food we ate, sometimes have little nutritional values. We were cultured to adapt to this because we were at war or perhaps not so well informed. While I go on commenting about how we should take care of our own well-being, I sometimes wonder if I should stop caring. For people don’t care what they put in their bodies and when I say too much, it isn’t well-received.

A little sadness sank in that evening. Sitting outside staring on the quiet streets, asking myself how can we continue to educate or bring awareness when people don’t want to? Because being ignorance is blissful and we could continue living in a egomania society, breading excessiveness and immorality.

I always say, how you do one thing is how you do everything. Pour enough sauce for your salad or chee chong fun; buy one not take advance of buy two get one free (there is no need); take what you need and leave what you don’t. Our heritage is narrowing, because our education is advancing without teaching ethics or mindful-living. I feel grateful for meeting passional collective individuals on this trip. A little light to capture essence of hopes for a better community.

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August 13, 2017 § Leave a comment

Baking this lovely cake is a ritual at our space. I remember meeting her family for the first time. They rolled up to our shop and was delightfully surprised that we had a gluten free option sweet for her son. Week after week, we became a weekend treat after their long family walks. Five years later, she is one of my closest friend and most inspiring woman I know.

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When this came out from the oven yesterday, I knew it wasn’t my best. I had lost touch of the whisk, spatula, melting time, temperature and essentially, the kitchen. I haven’t been doing this for a long time and also felt so at home. How can one feel so lost at home? It takes a while to get myself familiarised with Gerard, Sam and Blu. I remember their particular manoeuvres. Holding onto the off/on button while reducing the speed; pressing one side of the mixing bowl down so that the whisk can ease into the egg whites better; never preset the temperature because he is always faster than you think.

All these familiaritires spoke closely to my heart. Afterall, 4 years of long hours in the same space, how could it possibly not?

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I love being able to tell the story of a simple cake and how it brought us customers who became very close friends. I love being friends, forging bonds over simple meals and being their daily bread/coffee. Beyond these, I am also a home cook who is obsessed with tinkering ingredients, temperature, methods and re-adjusting recipes. “A little more salt for this today”,”a little more of that than that”, “that didn’t look like that before, why is it this way today?” There is a certain expectation we live up to. More often that not, we are our worst critic by putting ourselves down and then comparing to others. But truly we know that comparing ourselves isn’t as bad or good, until we are better than the last meal we cooked. The goal as a cook is to always be better than your last cake or dish.

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A couple of days ago, I caught up with a friend where we spoke closely about being authentic and drawing positive energies. It is so easy to get sucked by naysayers or the rat race. While we are obsessed with what the media portrays and how we should live our lives vicariously through theirs, we also unwillingly blend into the social norm. So what if we are a no reservation place or do not believe your gossips about this other person you are talking about? Perhaps if we all have an open mind or heart about the next thing we hear of something new or old, we could all be better for ourselves and others too.

Here is to “not living to the status quo, giving unconditional love and having the courage to be your authentic self”.

I am leaving this country, again. Yes this time its full throttle, no visa drama and just left with packing. It feels a little bit like how Nancy Silverton left Canpanile. A year ago, that relationship didn’t work and someone had to go; so I left, even when I wasn’t ready to leave emotionally. It was the lost of the space that made me a little hollow. I had no idea what to do, so I travelled, did odd jobs and found home ground somewhere else. I’m still on this journey. One thing I learnt this week about being yourself, be daring enough to pissed people off.

Want a beer?

*oh yes, we named our equipments*

for the record

July 23, 2017 § Leave a comment

Here is a quick one.

I love food and am surrounded by it all the time. I nibble. I talk about food, after food; I write about food years after having that memory at a dining table; I recreate a dish with a full belly. I even have a nick-name, squirrel for always gathering ingredients and putting them in my mouth.

But more than food, than writing, than photography, I have another love ~ music.

I will spend hours reading up on a band and the producer/director/recording studio. Then listen to other similar artists, look up their history and personalities, how they all grow along with one another and fall out or make up.

Recently, I’ve been a little obsessed with The Defiant Ones. Jimmy Iovine, you are a genius. Thank you for bringing Patti Smith, Dr Dre and too many more amazing artists to our lives. He founded Interscope , a music studio which brought us John Lennon’s single, U2, and till today, Eminem & Aloe Blacc. Since James Mangold’s Walk The Line of Johnny & June Cash, this is perhaps one of the best music documentary I have seen.

Another recent favourite recording is The National’s new track, Guilty Party recorded by La Blogothèque (a brilliantly talented videographer, Vincent Moon) produced by PitchFork.

It’s nobody’s fault
No guilty party
I just got nothing, nothing left to say

It all, all just catches up to me
It all, all catches up to me all the time

2132 let’s start talking

July 18, 2017 § Leave a comment

We don’t talk about it. We avoid it. We are afraid of it because the world we are in build us up to be strong and good.

What is strong and good?

The last week has been an absolute struggle. After taking a few days off to be on the yoga mat, coming back to this island seems like scalding myself with hot water. Ever since then, I have been the nursing the wounds. The time on the mat appears to have taken a thick layer of skin and exposed, vulnerability.

I went to bed last night with a heavy heart. I have done what most insomniacs would tell you not to do: read on your phone. But as I read that one of Sydney’s most acclaimed chef, Jeremy Strode, has taken his own life; I kept the screen open and gave a deep thought about my own.

Early this week, I have been going through an emotional rollercoaster. I have been mostly upset about the work attitudes, society misconceptions, health ignorance and the hustle. As I explored the feelings and thoughts, usually through breaking down on a yoga mat or on the way back home listening to a melancholy tune, I realised it stemmed from rejection.

Much earlier this month, I have been rejected by a group of people that I trusted-wholeheartedly. The betrayal feels painful. I had devoted myself into something hopeful, with time and heart. Corporate, as they say. Chopping off the tree trunk and cutting the chase.

This week felt lonely. I wasn’t alone mind you. I am surrounded by physical beings everyday and have people around. But there is a difference being in a room full of people and feeling lonely at the same time. We, hospitality folks, work long and odd hours. We sacrifice family/friends time to earn a living and feed other peoples’ friends and families. At the end of the day, we are left with our group of kitchen family and our real family, who are often asleep already or too tired to deal with our emotions/tiredness. Our kitchen family changes, because not everyone can deal with the pressure and work culture. The line cooks and servers replace themselves like the next music charts every month. When you finally realised this and turn to your own friends, they have already forgotten about you and booked their own next vacation.

A few days ago, a high school friend felt the need to apologise for asking about my work life. She mentioned that I was apprehensive in my replies. “I have been in this industry for ten years, I am constantly on the dining floor, my replies are short because I am engaging with customers and sometimes holding a hot pan”, well I didn’t text the later part but you get the idea. “You are right I should have known better”, she said politely.

But I knew by then, there was already a misunderstanding and un-returnable damage. Years of not being there (for them) and years of not understanding (for me). So after service is done and dusted, there left the individuals who return to their devices and talk to loneliness. It is no wonder depression is such a taboo and yet, profound culinary issue. It is no wonder that chefs like Benoit Violier, who ended his own life after not achieving another Michelin star and Jeremy Strode, drown themselves passionately into cooking because they don’t know otherwise.

Admittedly, I have changed. I have became tirelessly exhausted, a little more impatient (just a little) and also more aloof with meeting up. I have also felt nonchalant when people don’t have time to reach out, but also have high expectations of closed ones to empathise with my work schedules. How can they meet? Well they do, behind the line, where we stand for hours, the emotions meet. There is a certain drive that we have and love for being in the service industry, which makes us feel whole. When a dish is made perfectly, presented on the table at the right temperature, paired with a right beverage and enjoyed as it should be. There is something magical when the crew is in sync, where everyone knows their roles, follow one another’s movements and no one is sloppy. The evening is played out like an orchestra in its element. The right notes are precisely hit simultaneously and timely. There is nothing like a perfect dinner service. It is a melody.

For us, well perhaps just me, I endeavoured to seek this tune over and over. I could replay it, improve it and play it night after night. For most chefs or restaurateurs, when they find the right people/food/dishes, they yearn to recreate, experience this fine moment and share it with the world.

I woke up today, feeling a little better. There are creases in what I do and have, yet there is joy at taking a step at a time. For this road and push is lonely, but we should talk about it. We should be able to create an environment for one another who share the same sentiments with food & service, and also be able to be open about our happiness and sorrows. If its being strong and good, I strive to be the same with empathy and kindness.

Let’s start talking.

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