July 10, 2017 § 1 Comment
I’ve been on the move. We’ve been on the move. Where BakeAnything has always been perceived as a personal blog about baking (well, anything) it has also been an avenue for me to pen down my deepest thoughts. How could it not? Food and my heart share the same space. As much as I would to hate/love to deny it, I’m proud of this journey.
But this time, I’m taking a step further beyond food and words. I’m going to share with you my yoga practice.
My first hatha yoga class was in 2008. It was also my first time as a waitress and the practice was introduced to me by my mother. I enrolled myself into a 6 months class. 10 years later, I’m still on this journey. Yoga was a form of soft exercise. A long stretch after the day, a meditative restorative release for the soul and a space for breath.
Breathing, a primary source of life and so often secondary to our thoughts.
Last week, my partner and I took a little break from our daily routines and escape to the Laos mountains. We ended up in Nam Ou river, where dawn mists fall gently on the tips of the mountain, little birds greet you from a far morning wake up call and they both meet the sounds of a river water flowing.
Being able to detach our human bodies from the hustle, our focus naturally turn inwards. The rhythm of our breathes slow down, our shoulders are softened and foot steps are lighter. When there is an awareness between our respiration and mind, our practice becomes effortless. A harmonious connection of both conscious breath and mental state is vital.
In our daily lives, we perhaps do not excuse ourselves enough to bring consciousness in our breathing. How often do we sit in silence and give out a deep sigh? Or hear someone take in a heavy breath when they are faced with something stressful? Do we not realise that it comes with a certain set of mental state? Anxious, happy, or calm?
To begin yoga, one has to first learn about pranayama. It is a sanskrit word of prana (life force or breath) and ayama (extension). I remember sitting at the top of a mat with our legs comfortably crossed and watching myself breathe. Isn’t it odd to attend a class that teaches you how to do something so natural? If we all need yoga instructors to teach us how to breathe, we might as well head into the delivery room and watch a baby’s first breath. Well perhaps not, since it will be filled of cries instead. But perhaps, watching a baby sleep peacefully in a cradle. The little lungs expand and contract gently, so sound and tranquil.
Should we bring awareness to sleep and awakened breathing, there comes a greater sense of consciousness. At this stage, you are at the most creative, gaining insights to truths, or receiving light. I personally find this moment rather comforting and addictive. After a yoga practice, I am not only physically better, my soul & mind are lifted and refreshed. We have experienced this moment before. After a long run, a good game fight, a rush through traffic etc. Where the mind is actively engaged and engrossed that when it leaves the moment, it returns to a stage of “normalacy”.
Asana, the physical part of yoga carries a similar conscious approach.“Posture becomes perfect when the effort to attain it disappears, so that there are no more movements in the body.” The stretches, folds, bending and transformation from one pose to another are challenging. It is an effort to bend the knees and straighten the back; stretch the arms while keeping the core tight; all these while observing the breath. When our rhythm of breathing remains consistent, so will our postures and practice. Everything will come together, just as one.
Pose begins when you want to leave it.
What does that even mean? It’s much like saying, food begins when you leave the restaurant. One wouldn’t imagine that can we? But it is somewhat relevant in many ways that our experience with food retains when we remove ourselves from the place. The poses in yoga symbolise our way of life, just as our breath with the mental state of mind.
It was a wobbly start. I admired the experienced practitioners and mimicked them behind closed doors. I fell countlessly while trying hard to get it “right”, then fall again. It is fun watching yourself fall when no one is seeing you. It isn’t as embarrassing but as the saying goes. That is where your consciousness kicks in. Why do you even judge yourself? Yoga is a reflection of your state of mind. Watch your practice and observe your thoughts.
Through my journey, I carry the same heart off the mat. Here are some views:
Judgements. It is so easy to judge yourself when you’re on the mat. That you are not good enough or as good as others. When we always view ourselves as inadequate as we are on the mat, we ultimately fail. It isn’t that we are so, it is what we pre-judge ourselves to be. Take the judgy pants off, buy a new pair that screams confidence.
Intention. At the beginning of a class, the instructor will always tell us to set an intention. Gratitude. Let go. Being present. A dedication. It is then sealed and manifested as we carry on our practice. At the end of the practice, we bring awareness to the intention again. Whether it was actively carried out or not, it sets the tone to our practice. Like anything I act on, I set an intention or dedication. With that mindset, I remind myself to stay positive and steadfast to the action. More often than not, you are more likely to be happier with yourselves.
Flow Haven’t we’ve been here before? Stop resisting, go ahead let it go. Go with the flow. Que sera sera, whatever will be, will be. The future’s not ours to see. So why allow your own thoughts to hinder you from adventures and surprises? Why are you so attracted to expectations? Let go of those that do not serve you any purposes. Accept.
Present From Julie, who always reminds us when we are in our shavasana pose ~ there is nothing left for you to do. Well then, this is exactly where we are meant to be. Find the sweet spot and breathe.
I am a little stronger and more balanced these days. My practice is not always the same: some are more challenging than others; some are more relaxing than the usuals. They are an opposite to the energy surrounding the day. A hectic day would need more ying, a quiet day would have more inversions and sometimes HIIT workout. It is a good combination of counterbalancing practices.
No matter what it consists of, it will always have one element ~ gratitude for showing up on the mat.
June 12, 2017 § Leave a comment
This week went by tougher than the usual. It is still dark outside with the sun refusing to shine. I just had the most complete 8 hours sleep I probably had in a few weeks. Yet with this exhaustion, I can’t go back to bed again. So it’s back to this page, a side plate of three different breads and a big pot of barley soup with orange peel.
I started a sourdough starter a couple of days ago. It is alive. The little yeasty bubbles have made itself notice with a sour scent and growing quite slowly. The good bacterias are having fun inside the little yellow pot. So last night, I attempted to bake a loaf and it failed quite nicely.
The thing about bread making, I’ve realised, is that it reads your mood. It requires attention, love and care. Like anything else, when it doesn’t get it. It just rejects all form and turn out bad. Yesterday’s bread turned out quite flat and nonchalant. It tasted a little yeasty, which gave a quite bite of joy. The crust is not dark enough but the layer formed quite quickly. The inside is moist and sticky like it is meant to be.
The moments prior to the baking session were a blur. I have been getting migraines, a high fever and flu. Perhaps its the hot/wet weather, perhaps it has just been a long week at work or just bad timing. Closed ones have been too busy to catch up or spend time. Somehow distance make it hard to be in sync. Sometimes you wait for the right moment or stay up, but ends up to a night of just pillows and blankets. Sometimes its just wanting a little help when one could barely hold the head up right. I had prepare the dough two days before and wanted to call it off. But the second I opened my door, I could smell the yeastiness. How could one simply turn away that call?
I knew it wouldn’t be ideal and still went for it. There is a baker stubbornness inside that loaf that seems to be prevalent. While comparing three breads side by side, I find a vast difference in each character. A sourdough from San Fran, full of life and still chewy after sitting in the refrigerator. A normal walnut loaf, dry and yet quite flavourful. Then there is mine.
There are fundamental signs when you push the limits, they don’t take them too well. The fever. The flat bread. Perhaps next time, the sourdough and I will catch each other on a better day. As for the little starter, it is hibernating in a corner of the refrigerator.
June 1, 2017 § Leave a comment
“If you read stories, you get to see the entire world. And not just the stories you find in books and film, but the stories of strangers sitting next to you on the subway or in an ordinary restaurant. You can find the world in your own story, too – you just have to keep your eyes open.”
― Steve Dublanica, Waiter Rant: Thanks for the Tip-Confessions of a Cynical Waiter
I remember reading Waiter Rant, right after culinary school. It was the soft cream that finished off a simple butter cake. Something I looked forward to at the end of every shift as a pastry cook in a small French/Californian restaurant of 5th Ave at Santa Monica. He wrote about his observations around the restaurants and his life as a waiter. I admired his audacity to speak out in an invincible voice for the large group of us who went unnoticed behind the line. I adored the way he reflected on society’s perceptions of the service industry. Though they were mostly, rants, they were truths.
They say the truth sets you free. In many ways, they do. But truths are like art pieces, which beauty lies in the perceptions of the beholder. In a place of ranks or solitude, one looks through their own glass to define what is and not. In many ways, the truth doesn’t set you free. The present moment does. I could tell you that the slice of cake is awfully bad for you and you could jolly well believe me because that is the truth to you right at that moment. Does that set you free? No, it holds you down with guilt and displeasure. But if you accept being in the moment, you would have been honest enough to yourself that the slice of cake is bad and the awareness would bring you nothing but peace.
I have kept a resilient heart and soul with the adventures. Something to keep me absolutely grounded at this moment is being with the greater crew. Everyday I learn something new about them and how we can be better for ourselves. No one stands alone and do well for him/herself. You got to find something good out of them and encouraged their strengths. For the sandless ocean bay community, I’ve grown to find some friends which share common grounds.
I have given up defining or stereotyping things/people/events. The world is too big of a place for us to narrow everything into corner stones. The moments we live daily is truly what we have and can only sincerely appreciate them when they are accepted fully.
Sometimes on my off days, I visit one of my favourite parts of this island. In many ways, we grew up eating these little ang ku kuehs during tea time or after school. You can find them in the corner snack stall in our canteens and at a local bakery on the way home. There is a particular kueh-kueh stall at my parents’ hometown in Taiping, Malaysia, which makes the softest and most fragrant traditional ang ku. While I reminisce those little moments, we have moved on to a different culture. Back in the big city where locally roasted coffee is proudly served in little neighbourhoods and traditional bakes are still integrated our daily lives. We are redefining coffee moments. A Colombia El Mirador and Kenya Kagumoini brew with mung bean paste wrapped in glutinous rice pastry at our favourite coffee shop.
Ji Xiang Confectionery
Blk 1 #01-33 Everton Park,
May 10, 2017 § Leave a comment
How are you? What can we do for you today?
I’ve been in the service/hospitality staff for a decade. Every time when we are on the floor these questions are asked again and repeated throughout the day. Being in this island made me realised that people don’t care much when a service staff approach guests with friendliness or courteously. They retort to their own hole of reading menus or being on their devices.
Working in the US/UK is different. The basic human encounter is much simpler. Coming from an individualistic society, they seem to care more. They also seem to deeply cherish food and dining with their companions.
It seems that everyone here has an agenda behind their back or can’t even digest an honest question we were taught in kindergarten. A society which loves food so much but fail to even manage not having devices on the table, a kitchen that trusts chefs or a friendly conversation with servers.
What have we become? What are we doing to ourselves? Years of learning to how to be service staff/trained pastry chef/operational manager washed away in a lawful society.
I have a fair share of customers-becoming-friends. But that is also because I was in an environment that thrived on the idea of a community or being honest. It dwells back to the food we serve. How simple and honest the cooking somehow translate to how we serve our food. The more we try to load it with too many ingredients, the more we try to explain ourselves or complicate the whole experience, the more we deceive others. Giving people options are a great way to show your generosity but too much of it make them feel entitled.
Yes, that is what they deemed us as. Millennials who are too self-entitled to the vast amount of choices we have these days. Go ahead and pick up a menu that doesn’t give you options. A choice to change your pasta or bread or alternating it to this with that. If they didn’t have the option, would you ask for it?
“A little less ginger on the Ginger Chicken”, “More chocolate sauce on the Double Chocolate Caramel Cake”, “No egg in the Chinese Fried Rice”, etc. The crew will joke that we will serve eggless omelettes, non-alcoholic Alcohol beverages and hot ice-lattes. When these sort of orders come through the tickets, and we see you laugh at the server having a hard time keying them in but truly, the jokes are on you.
A meal is a meal and a meal itself. Why make it so difficult when life already is?
Last year at MADFEED (I know I have brought the event up so many times!), we spoke about millennial chefs: the difficulties of bridging us privilege kids, to be able to choose this profession, and our mentors, who find difficulties with staying afloat.
What is missing? Us not respecting you for your hardwork and whining about the daily grind. Us complaining that you are not open to our ideas because you are too old-fashioned. I belong to the modern group because I did have a choice and sold my soul to it. It was clear for me to learn as much as I can from my chefs or mentors, whether or not they came from the hospitality background. There is always something to master.
Patience. Sincerity. Perservance. Resilience. Knife techniques. Assembling kitchens. Dealing with business partners. Building trusting relationships.
The goal is to stay relevant. How does one stay sustainable with society? For the larger part, it really is difficult to catch up or change the system. One habitually practice ways only to realise they have to alter them again. Age catches up, habits don’t. They stay stagnant. Good learning attitudes and open hearts allow growth. A developed city has the most versatile talents because of the type of people they have not the amount. When old people stay hip and young folks grow old souls, there comes innovations. Have you not seen the movie the Intern? There is always something to learn no matter how many times you have done it.
Bauisou indigo dye techniques, Chef Alex Atala and Lyn Slater are great examples of sterling new world meets old world brands/people. If we are both open to listening to one another, and find mutual ground instead of building hierarchies, wouldn’t it be so much easier for both millennials and mentors to come together? The question now isn’t what we do but how do we do so. How do we create a work culture that allows both sides to come together? There is no need to look further than putting all ego aside and be transparent as you can to one another. That’s something we learn from kindergarten too ~ don’t lie, be honest.
“Rather than love, than fame, than fortune, give me truth. “, H.D. Thoreau
The last two months here have been trying. I have been as authentic and trusting as I could, but somehow it has been pushed beyond limits. So you do what every loyal dog would, you stop caring. Truth is, the loyalty is limited when tested.
May 3, 2017 § Leave a comment
When we look up at the sky, we are trying to find the way to ourselves.
What is a community? A few individuals coming together and striving for a united goal? Or collective personalities wired to generate something better? Both scenarios sound similar to one another but none of them truly understand the beauty of a community. To understand the collective, we need to question the individuals. How they view themselves and what their roles are. The beauty that sync us lies beneath our heartbeats. It is in the way we devote ourselves, and commit in being inclusive.
I have yearned to be part of a community. I have wanted to integrate people’s lives with each other. A space for one another to be themselves through honesty, selflessness and trust. A bond of reliance for us to feel loved or inclusive.
There is a certain level of commitment when we dedicate ourselves, forming interdependence. One that takes time and effort to sow and nurture into a beautiful wheat field. A seed is carefully rooted into the ground for natural growth, then germinating into stems/leaves, eventually sprouting to a tall confident plant. A plant is nothing beyond itself, but a few of them forms something special. That something special transcends differences.
Last two weeks were rather challenging. We were setting up the space and have been pulling long shifts to misc, prep, clean, organise, plan and so on. There were too many of us, yet there wasn’t enough collectiveness. The irony in forming a space where miscommunications and ego override transparency.
It reminded me of how we set up the previous spot. How we cemented the floors, cleaned the equipments, test recipes and gradually gain confidence with time. How the community around us were patient, yet curious and grew with us. Somehow it felt right. Somehow it really thrived. For a long period of time, we gather a good amount of love and trust. Somehow, we lost this essence overtime.
Perhaps it is just for me.
A friend and I have been discuss the meaning of friendship for a while now. How we make the effort to reach out but the other party doesn’t. How we continuously want to involve ourselves with their lives and only to be turned away with a cold reply (or even better, silence). We understand moving on with life or getting busy but it is a two way street, with every step comes a closer bond. Free spirited hearts carrying heartfelt banters of care and concerns. While we can grow apart, we can also grow inclusively with humility.
I have watched various spaces filled with people who come and go. Many that stay beyond their “time” and many who couldn’t stay still because of something more. I have rooted myself in places where I thought people would grow together with time. But only to be disappointed, with time itself.
Looking up to the sky last evening,I have decided again to slowly let go of the strings I attached myself to. That this little big island, cannot be a place for a fish out of water like me. After five years, there is something better than forming a better relationship with a piece of device than the person living next door. If this is living, then the living is rather nonchalent. We are too afraid to bring the walls down; yet the only thing that brings us together is by lowering them.
Vulnerability in community snowballs. Once its members become vulnerable and find themselves being valued and appreciated, they become more and more vulnerable. The walls come tumbling down. And as they tumble, as the love and acceptance escalates, as the mutual intimacy multi-plies, true healing and converting begins. Old wounds are healed, old resentments forgiven, old resistances overcome. Fear is replaced by hope. – M.Scott Peck
If letting go looks like the beautiful sunset, then let the light in.
A little tip of enhancing beetroot hummus with laksa flowers leaves and sambal. Oh what would I do without a little kick of spiciness in my food?
April 22, 2017 § Leave a comment
You are too honest, she said.
Well I have been very transparent with my life with people I’ve met. I have been quite real with everyone and the downfall is, people do get tired of listening to your stories. Over the week I’ve reflected on friendships that have failed to withstand the rough weather. How often do we go about our lives to reach out to others only to see a two blue ticks, a “read” with timestamp and ill-reciprocated responses? It’s not the best feeling in the world. You try again but no respond. It leaves you wondering why you even bother, what you have done wrong or perhaps they honestly are just busy with their lives.
But we always say we make time. The priorities change and everything kind of just moves on. I hold on to things and people dearly. There is a certain sentiment that a moment shared between two people or more that I somehow appreciate. While the souls or physical existences connect, and intertwined but are ghosts to my daily routines now.
Coming to terms with distant bonds have been hard. In this city I had wished to call home but have not seem to established a sense of belonging. I have had them and still have very found memories of laughters and joy with hose that had withstand the tide, I am so grateful for. But leaving and coming back to them, doesn’t seem to be happening anytime soon.
We sat down at the dining table last week and questioned authenticity. I just could not bring myself to accept the fact that some people are what we thought of them to be. Our minds love to play tricks on us, we delude ourselves into anything possible and anything factual. Facts and fiction walk a fairly thin line depending on which end of the spectrum you are on.
But the truth lies when the blue two ticks don’t get a respond, or a phone call doesn’t get returned, you ought to close that chapter and start a new page.
Almost two years ago, someone told me I couldn’t be what I am. I couldn’t run a space, I can’t write a cookbook, I can’t run because I have no endurance. I shouldn’t be vegan, I shouldn’t say what I feel and I shouldn’t be what I endeavour to be.
This morning, I ran for an hour and almost hit the 10km mark. Last week, we finished off a menu that was solely written by women. I am still on a plant based diet and living just fine.
We are all afraid to disappoint others’ expectations. It takes us a while to realise that we are deluded with our own imaginations formed by our upbringing or exposure. We are all so fearful of failing or falling short. Not meeting deadlines, not getting to the finishing line etc, the greatest disappointment is nothing but letting yourself down.
“Our life is an apprenticeship to the truth that around every circle another can be drawn; that there is no end in nature, but every end is a beginning, and under every deep a lower deep opens.”, Ralph Waldo Emerson.
The weekend is here again, soon it will be gone. The little pet project I have been working on is setting off. There won’t be weekends on weekends, and breakfast on breakfast. I start to wonder the lives others’ live. For those that enjoy the daily 9-5 and holidays, there are those at the other side of your world that make those hours for you. But instead of letting that get to me too much, I’m starting my own set of routines for after beer runs, yoga sessions and quiet sharing reads.
The kitchen crew I work with now are mostly Malaysians. And as much as I can’t love my own country’s political federations or climate (please don’t say one malaysia), I do love our people’s resilience to life. They also have a very good sense of humour when a crisis hits. The jokes are on us but we love the attention, perhaps that is why we have the best Comedian on Earth.
So here goes to the new page.
You can be my beurre noisette to form a great cookie or folded into a simple muffin batter. Thank you for always being a text away, sharing your day and making my day count. Looking forward to form a community of modest cooks and great humble beginnings. We have been procrastinating this for way too long!