I have an announcement to make. Today, I woke up feeling terribly excited about one thing - cooking lunch.
Yep. I literally woke up with a huge grin on my face because I knew I was gonna get down, dirty and gritty in my tiny kitchen, slaving over the stove and chopping onions and having them make me tear and having the garlic stink up my hands when I touch em. It's a joyous activity. I can't decide if I have no life or I choose to be excited about the simplest things in life, lol. But one thing's for sure, I realized my love for cooking cannot go unnoticed. It has to be acknowledged, it's too passionate, too strong. It's positively consuming me. (see what I did there?)
All pictures in this post are of my most recent home-cooked meals. Here we have linguine with sun-dried tomatoes, pan fried scallops & prawns! Pasta is one of my favorite foods.
Almost every day, I will crack my brains just thinking about which culinary I should attempt to conquer next... what should I cook for lunch later? What should I cook for dinner tomorrow? I think I can almost safely say that I enjoy cooking more than I do eating, which is a bold statement. We all love food, but I don't know a lot of people who like to cook the way I do. Most people in other countries cook because they have to, because dining out is expensive, but in Singapore you can dine out everyday and still get by. Hawker fare is cheap, available everywhere, and delicious. Don't get me wrong, I love digging into my food once I'm done beautifying it in the kitchen. That is half the reward. But the true beauty about cooking is knowing that your food is appreciated by other people. Food has a very special kind of effect on people. It makes people of all ages, languages, races & backgrounds speak the same language... Hunger. And a well fed-person, is a happy person. I like making people happy in my own little ways.
Roasted red capsicums stuffed with cherry tomatoes, basil, sun-dried tomatoes (as you can tell I am obsessed with tomatoes) along with other random goodness, topped off with cheese and breadcrumbs! Look ma, no meat.
And here, I'll just admit it - I like the attention. I love getting reactions out of people when I cook. Most people don't expect it from me, which makes it extra fun and dramatic. It's like when a fat guy finishes first in a marathon.. They're happy that you tried, but they're over the moon and completely dumbfounded that you actually succeeded. Do I really look that prissy? I guess so. Less than 3 years ago I could barely cook anything, you could leave me with a kitchen full of raw supplies in the middle of a zombie apocalypse and I'd still starve to death. I couldn't even fry an egg, or prepare instant noodles myself. My idea of cooking maggi mee is dumping the entire contents of the packet into a large bowl filled with water and popping it into the microwave for 3 minutes to "cook". Before I discovered the microwave technique, I never even dreamed of touching the stove. Microwave-food alone was an achievement for me. I've always had an innate fear of stoves, microwaves.. anything fire or electricity related that could possibly explode, I'd stay far, far away from. So I don't know exactly when it was, or what inspired me to get my ass involved into the kitchen, but one day I decided I would stop being such a pussy princess, and that I'd man the fuck up and finally learn how to cook, like a woman should. (Don't mean to sound sexist, but let's admit it girls, the way to a man's heart is his stomach) I have an inkling it might have been when I toyed with the idea of moving to Australia to live. People kept drilling it into my head that living alone in your own apartment and fending for yourself is hard, and that cooking was a necessary skill. Sam, and my very own mother would subtly rub it into my face that I couldn't survive by myself.. I recall hearing this sentence in a slight taunting and challenging tone, "Who is going to cook and clean up after you???" And in my head a small proud voice screamed, "I'll cook for myself dammit!!!"... Sam's mum also did not particularly like me very much back then when I visited his family in Melbourne, and I was told by Sam it's because I was "too spoilt." As a result of indignation, a new hobby and skill was born.
Here's my list of reasons why cooking is awesome!
1) It's cheaper than eating at most restaurants, while being equally or even yummier, if you do it right. Singapore has a serious lack of individual, unique restaurants... I'm sick of dining at the same old franchised outlets!!! Perhaps cooking is not cheaper than hawker fare, but you can't eat hawker food your whole life.
2) It ups your "future amazing wife potential" (Yay for me, take that Sam's mum! Hah just kidding.)
3) You can do your food exactly the way you want it to be done! If you're a fussy eater and control freak like me, it works out perfectly.
4) While Singapore lacks new & exciting restaurants to try, they do exist but they're all terribly far away and tucked into strange little obscure corners, and easily accessible. Cooking at home saves me taxi fares!
5) It's an awesome way to kill time. Not sure what to do on a mundane Sunday? Attempt to cook your favorite food or dessert! Even if you fail, you'll have fun trying.
Learning how to cook was not an easy thing to do. But it is undoubtedly one of the best things I've ever done for myself.
It is messy, a lot of trial-and-errors, is a big time investment, difficult to grasp at first and most of all, pure hard work. There's a lot of physical exertion involved. Being a non-sporty person, the only time I ever perspire or get covered in sweat in my air-conditioned house is when I have to babysit my food sitting in a stove-crib. When I first started out experimenting with different cooking styles, I had to put up with the awkward looks on people's faces when they were asked to try my cooking and they didn't like it, but didn't know how to tell me. It was quite a difficult blow to stomach considering I always try to give my best. At least I know they weren't lying, and they will only give compliments when they're real.
Speaking of compliments, if someone tells me I'm pretty, I'd curtly respond, "Thank you. ^.^"
On the other hand, if the same person said, "I LOVE your cooking / baking!!!" I'd be all like, "Really? Why thank you!! I'm glad you liked it!!!! :D"
A compliment has so much more meaning when you know you earned it!
These days, even when I have become comfortable with cooking, I still face new problems and questions everyday - what is affordable to cook, that I haven't cooked recently, that everyone home will find suited to their taste buds, that I already have the ingredients for in the fridge because I do not have time to go out and buy groceries? ...Sheesh, it's like the problems never stop coming. But that is also part of the reason why I find cooking fun, because it is a challenge. If something is too easy, it's probably not worth doing. I am always learning.
To digress, I solved that problem last night by doing a fried cauliflower dish coated in seasoned batter, I also prepared a garlic aioli sauce to dip with. Do not be deceived by it's plain looks! It is crispy and full of flavor, normally I wouldn't even take a glance at cauliflower. Everyone raved about it and the cauliflower costed me only $1.30. Hoo-rah!
Just today, I decided to make hamburgers for lunch, at the request of my boyfriend. I thought to myself, "Hey, McDee's can serve up a hamburger within minutes. How difficult can it be? No problem-o!" but I ended up spending over an hour wreaking havoc in the kitchen, and by the time I was done, I was almost too tired and hot and bothered to enjoy my meal properly. (But I did, anyway, because it was good. I fell asleep after that though)
Was the pain worth it? You bet. Toasted buttered bun.. Cheddar cheese.. Creamy portobello mushrooms.. Fresh lettuce & tomatoes.. Home made fatass juicy beef patty.. Fried bacon.. White onions.. Accompanied by deviled eggs. Food comas are made of these.
Most people would look at the picture above and go, "Oh, yum, a burger!" but to me, it is a work of art. (Don't laugh!)
I look beneath the exterior to see what lines beneath. I think about frying the bacon that made the hot oil splatter and how it hurt when it landed on my bare skin, about how it took 20 whole minutes to cook that monster of a beef patty, about how my eyes still sting just a little from cutting the onions and let's not even get started on how messy my whole kitchen was after the fiasco. Since picking up cooking, I have been extremely aware of what I am putting into my mouth. I feel like most people don't know what they are putting into their bodies when they dine outside. Did you know that your tasty McDonald chicken nuggets are actually made from this disgusting laboratory-produced piece of inedible looking thing?! At least when I make my own burgers, I can make sure real minced beef goes into my beef patties! (well I know supermarkets are full of preservatives and other random shit but it's still an improvement to cook yourself) Perhaps it's just easier not to know the harsh reality, but I say, it is a damn good thing to know as much as you can, ignorance is never bliss. These days, I am better at telling real food apart from fake food, from what are genuine flavors & aromas and what is just laden with unhealthy MSG. I don't eat as much junk food as I used to, and have become more health conscious, because I always think twice before I buy food outside.
How much nutritional value is this going to give me? Am I really going to pay $8 for a McDonalds meal when I can cook a nicer, healthier burger and with the same amount of money I could double the portions? I don't know about you, but I always feel sickly after eating McDees. I like McDees, and I am not discriminating against anyone else who does, but surely I am not the only one who feels like my throat gets all dry and congested when I finish their burgers, and the slight nauseating feeling when you've finished your whole meal, downed with those oily fries (that aren't even made of mostly potatoes?!) and diluted, watered-down soda. (P.S I am very proud to tell you guys I have given up my soft drink addiction!!!! Big milestone in my life.)
Another sense of awareness that cooking has brought to my attention is eating meat. I roasted this whole chicken for dinner last night. (Of course I didn't finish it alone, it was shared among 6 people) Here it looks like a tasty roasted chicken, fresh out of my oven, ready to eat. 2 hours before this, however, before the marinating and roasting in the oven, all I saw was a dead, cold chicken carcass sitting on my table waiting for it's head to get chopped off, and for it's guts to be de-gutted so that I could have it for dinner. I hate touching uncooked raw meat, but it is a solemn reminder that another animal had to die, so that I could live (better). Not just one, but many, many animals. Now you could say "You can live without meat!" but I've enjoyed eating meat for all my life and will not (or can not) stop now. I am not interested in preaching about animal cruelty or being vegan because I have nothing to do with that, however, I just wanted to highlight how this prompts me to waste food less often, I try to finish everything I have on my plate. If an animal had to die, at least I'd make it's death worth their while. It makes me appreciate food this much more, gluttony aside, I realize I am privileged to be at the top of the food chain and how lucky I am to have food always readily available, and that I never have to go hungry. Many other people in this world suffer from starvation, a depressing problem that shouldn't exist in this era considering our abundance of food.
In a lot of ways, cooking is like baking to me. It's a valuable and convenient skill to have, it impresses people, and I am always guaranteed some sort of a reward. I'm fussy with my hobbies and interests, if I feel like they don't provide me an instant sense of worthwhile-ness, I will drop it almost immediately. With cooking or baking, even if people somehow don't like it, at least it fulfills the human being's most basic need - having something to put in your stomach. No food is ever wasted when it satiates your hungry. Watching people dig into my food gives me a similar sensation as to when I see people gawk and squeal at the sight of my decorated cupcakes.. At the end of the day, it's not so much of smugness, or self-gratification, but mostly I am humbled that something so simple can evoke a response like that from another human being. Please continue to make orgasmic noises and pull funny expressions while wolfing down the food I made you, it puts a smile on my face.
And that, briefly, is why I love cooking... Other than how it tastes so good.
Now I don't even have to worry about what to cook for lunch the next day, because my best friend is cooking and bringing lunch to my place for me tomorrow. The only cooking I like better than my own cooking is meals that are cooked by other people, with utmost sincerity, just for me!!!