holding the presence

October 23, 2017 § Leave a comment

There have been many aspects of my life that I frequently write about. Bake Anything has always foremost, been about food and the kitchen stories entailed around. Occasionally, there would be experiences of yoga, running or traveling. I have taken this site as a personal journal entry since almost a decade ago and have grown so much since.

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Today, I am going to share the present moment. What is the present moment? My present moment is being a student again, practising yoga physically/philosophically, freelance writing and partially take orders at dining tables. I suppose I could go on with the things I do that doesn’t necessary call for definitions. Yet, everytime I come here to share about something not food related, there is a sense of apprehention. But on the other hand, I do want to share.

Baking as we know, is theraputic. It was how I spent my high school years running away from homework; it was how I switched from psychology school to patisserie; right now, its part of my weekly routine. It taught patience, grace, disipline and creativity. These elements could also be applied in yoga. In fact for anyone who is a practisioner would comprehend that it teaches much more than just those. If it is a canvas paper, it will absorb every paint; it is a baking pan, it will mold into any cake; if it is a pot of curry, it will probably be one that is versatile for any spicy level. Yoga has, adamantly, taken a larger part of my daily thoughts than anything else.

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The more I practice yoga, the more patient and present one becomes. How do you refine your daily activities as much as you want to improve your posture on the mat? I promise you the day you bring yoga thoughts into your actions, is the day you take yourself out to a nice restaurant and buy yourself a glass of good red. That is just the very begining of owning your own presence on this planet.

I used to practice yoga after service. No matter what time it is, I will unroll my mat and start with 10 sets of sun-salutations. Then depending on my energy level, I will either do more standing postures or let the practice take its time. These routines felt different everyday, routines are not meant to be fixed; they are implaced for one to check-in on yourself. How often do you ask yourself, how are you doing today? I frequently find myself scanning the cells in my blood wondering if they are still filled with vitality or half-baked.

Naturally, I am a go-getter. I start my day and it can go on for hours. I could do trays of cookies and cakes in just two hours. But my energy level depletes quickly and I got very agitated after coffee time. Over the years, I have learnt to conserve this wholesomeness by starting slow and maintaining a constant speed. So I pace it out now….. instead of letting the head take the lead, the whole body is attached and moves along together.

Isn’t it nice when the mind/body/soul are in sync? Not when you feel completely jaded in the head and the body has collapsed ? Or if the heart is filled with excitement and doesn’t let the mind sleep? Learning to realign myself is still a constant journey. A personal act of balancing through awareness and mindfulness.

There is no secret to being a better person. It truly starts from inside and right now. I sit with the unknown much more comfortably then before. I sit with it like I would put butter and sugar together.

Can you honour knowing,
and letting it go?
Can you honour not knowing,
and letting go too?

It can be so challenging wanting to feel safe. At the same time, it is something we strive for because of a fear for the unknown. So why not, just be with vagueness? Let the possibly of anything happen. We are so compelled to be in control, that we end up not having control at all. My favourite analogy is reading a foolproof recipe and watch someone use it; thinking the whole time to myself that the “joke is on you”.

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This week’s eats: homemade oatmeal with more, well oatmeal and nut sprinkles; pancakes with oranges; staff lunch spring salad while the sun shines on our faces.

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October 10, 2017 § 1 Comment

A few memorable phrases from my yoga classes last week:

“If you love Love so much, it will come to you. But first you need to love yourself, wholeheartedly”

“Let’s move to the next pose, if you are already in it, I don’t know why you are. We move so fast all the time. It is so hard to slow down”

“Be authentic in everything you do, the conversations you have, the words you type, the things you do”

I am thoroughly enjoying this asana practices more and more. It has deepen the daily awareness of every single event. The days are much sweeter, the once unnecessary moments are now filled with laughters and chores are joyful. Of course, not everything is peachy. I still face disappointments and tears. Yet, in a grand scheme of life, they are all happenstance. The smaller things making a big picture. The ebb and flow. Sow and reap.

You know how your yoga instructor invites you to set an intention before your practice? The last practice, I told myself to not set any intention. No, “let go”, “I dedicate this to…”; “focus on the moment”.. Yet not setting any intention itself is an intention. How many times in our lives we seek for reasons to questionable moments? What’s the point? Why am I doing this? Is it worth it? For some seeking out answers is the drive to why they even start something. For some questioning themselves make them feel challenged or fulfil a certain curiosity. Over time, I no longer find the need to pursue them. I am remotely sure about defining moments or even stereotyping things/people. Why is there a need? Yes it does help us understand the details but more than often, it has separate us from one another. Are we able to know the differences, labels and definitions, without judgement?

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These days, my routines are: meditation, yoga/running, studying, reading, baking and drinking chai soy lattes or beers. You got to live a life, like it is a holiday. Exams coming in a few weeks!

Yoga studio at Westside yoga; hotcakes with peanut butter at Dad and Dave’s; home roasted sweet potatoes; lunch after running the floor.

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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.

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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.

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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!

April 16, 2017 § Leave a comment

This week has been a long ride. There were undeniably questions of how long can one trust the process, how honest are we to ourselves and etc. Well, it shouldn’t be that doubtful but the energiser bunny’s battery level was depleting.

I had spent an insatiable amount of time with food (more than the average joe). I eat it, I write about it, I research it, I plan other people’s meals, I cook/bake/alter etc. I could go on until the cows come home. After a while I start viewing it not as a mean but either a form of art or business/passion. One could have a bad relationship, just like spending too much time with one person and you could end up wanting space. The roles are mixed up and somehow along the way, the respect or trust can be lost.

There was a time where I wasn’t very proud of myself and the relationship with food turned sour. I lost all interest with eating/cooking. I was frail, insecure about my decisions and was pretty low. Tired of feeling so exhausted all the time, I took the step to take responsibly of my own well-being. It started with preparing meals at home, buying groceries, salads, making sandwiches, changing white rice to brown rice and eating less processed/refined junk. I brought food wherever I went. There was really no excuse of “oh I can’t find healthy food”,because I was prepared. It was then I realised that if you could take ownership of your own health then why can’t you do the same with the other aspects of your life? We often victimise ourselves into bad situations but don’t we all fall short to see that the situation is negative, because we allow ourselves to let it be.

So my friends can have a bowl of deep-fried tofu/fishballs in chicken stock curry egg noodles while I have mixed rice, sautéed vegetable with fresh salad leaves. They can make fun of the diet, they can decide not to hang out, they have chosen to order more vegetables, they have taken notice of their own diets and some have even wrote to me how I’ve changed theirs. Somehow I am thankful for those that have been more aware of themselves. As much I would love to say, you are what you eat, you truly are, how you eat. If you are the sort that eat chicken breast and can’t run a mile, you are that piece of meat as it is. If you are the sort that takes time to enjoy marinating the piece of meat and have it with brown rice sautéed in garlic or oriental greens, perhaps you would learn to appreciate a different side of life. After all, people who love to eat are always the best people.
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Soba noodles with ceylon spinach: Veggie Stack, replicated from an original tofu veg stack made by a best friend from Canada who loves his bacon way too much for his own good

 

With the people who loves food, comes with different sort. Eating is an intimate activity. Perhaps this is why there are people we constantly declined to be on the same table with and those who are always there when we have our daily staples.

I came home late last evening after hours in the kitchen, just in time for dinner and enough time to bake for the next morning. I reflected on these thoughts of how food has altered my way of lives and those around me. I thought of how small I am in making a change and how much more I want to be. More change soon to come but for now, here is a vegan, gluten-free banana bread made with chia seeds, walnut powder, sorghum flour and coconut oil. I am leaving out the recipe for another day.

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tempeh

May 27, 2016 § Leave a comment

also known as fermented soybeans. Before it was labelled as one of the world’s most sought after plant-based protein, this traditional soy product was a trademark in most of my Malay meals. Every Saturday evening, my parents would pay a visit to the local pasar tani (night food market) beside a football stadium. Arriving at 5 pm, we would consider ourselves lucky if we found a good parking spot. Most of the market would be filled with residences walking around, window shopping, buying cincau bandung (grass jelly in rose syrup) or ais limau (iced-lime juice) to keep the body cool or, for the rest of us, wait at the significant empty spot.

This spot is reserved for a very well-known family owned nasi campur (mixed rice) store. They served nasi lemak (coconut rice), nasi kerabu (blue pea flower rice), nasi biryani (turmeric-spiced rice), assorted curries (either lamb, beef, or vegetables), sambal telur (fried egg in samba, my personal favourite and you can find it in our cookbook), archar (nyonya pickle vegetable)  and of course, sambal tempeh goreng.

Deep fried cubbed tempehs, fried in hot sambal with long beans and ikan bilis (anchovies) until the dish turns to maroon. Doesn’t it sound heavenly? Well, at least to me (even at 7 years old). Mum and I would squeeze our way through the crowd and wait for our turns. We would pick three types of rice, a few curries, and for me, sambal tempeh with a fat chicken drumstick and some archar. Then we would pick some kueh-kuehs (mostly coconut or tapioca steamed cakes) and iced soy milk.

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When I visited a tempeh shop/factory in Gainesville, Florida, there really wasn’t any amusement.  Perhaps only for the fact that there were no makciks behind the counter but young white late teenagers. The real eye-opener was at the vegan/vegetarian restaurants that served tempeh in sandwiches, salads, fried rice, stews and so on. My great friend was kind enough to drive us there for an unforgettable day trip before I left the East and headed West.

Now, I eat tempeh in every possible way. Fried, steamed, baked, boiled, and sometimes if it’s really very fresh, raw. The makcik (Malay auntie) at the wet market would sell it at RM0.30 for one lovely piece and proclaimed that it is as fresh as good yeast could get. Big soft warm leaves (hibiscus leaves) still slightly moist from the fermentation, a white fluffy velvety mould holding the beans together, nicely folded with newspaper and tied with a rubber band.
A beautiful nostalgic ingredient and a staple in our refrigerator.

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February 23, 2016 § Leave a comment

How are they so afraid to live a life
How are they so afraid to fall or hurt themselves even when it means being in the moment.
How are they so dense with their emotions and rigid with their thoughts.
How do they call this living?

Perhaps values sit on cushions that could never be too comfortable.
Perhaps fundamentals were taught with helmets on. Protect and shelter.

When you get to the box or game, you take the safest route. Striving to push with limits. Punching with withdrawal force.

We set our own goals. We draw our own perspectives.

We are our greatest enemy, with the strongest defense.

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Two days ago I turned to a great friend for a listening ear. Over the year, she had become a pillar of strength and vice versa.

“Feeling sad and hurt is not a lack of strength: on the contrary, I think one has to be very brave to know how to cry when faced with heartaches. True strength is defined by the ability to live gracefully, compassionately, authentically. “

Our setbacks had made us closer. All setbacks make friends closer.

I had realized that we truly can’t live without failing. Even so, the greatest way to learn is through falling or getting dirty. Living in this island, I grew tired of people who constantly protect themselves from falling. People who are so fearful of dipping their hands into deep mud and don’t know how to hold their dignity or have their smiles on. It weighs me down that they put a “no” to the unknown.

The relationships we build nurture us. I longed yearn for people who walk more than their talks. Be a friend before they judge. Understands emotions, be good with words and relate to the heart.

And try to live a simple life.

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Let’s start with a bowl of oatmeal.

Flaxseed oatmeal, topped with chia seeds, fresh creamy mango and blueberries. I become hopeless when the fruit stall carries sein ta lone mangoes. They are creamy, full of sweetness and floral flavours. Their skins are so delicate; flesh when ripened becomes almost orange.

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70g of oatmeal
1 ½ tsp of flaxseed
140 ml of hot water
pinch of sea salt
2 tsp of chia seeds
half mango
handful of berries

Place the oatmeal, flaxseed and water in a microwavable or oven-friendly bowl. If you are using the microwave, cook it under medium to high-heat for one minute. For the oven, turn it to 170C and bake for 8-10 minutes, depending on how you enjoy your oatmeal. For a creamier oatmeal, reduce the cooking time or alternatively use milk instead of water.

Stir in the salt, let it sit while preparing the mango or preferred fruits.

Slice the mango as closely as you can along the seed. Take a big spoon, scoop out the flesh and drop dollops of them on the oatmeal. Sprinkle chia seeds and berries.

cowspiracy and..

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.

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