A long time ago, all I could manage in the kitchen was a Maggi mee with an egg in it. Anything more complicated than that was beyond me. Eventually, I learnt how to make a salad, complete with ham, tuna, boiled eggs and olives. But that was the extent of my culinary adventures until about three years ago when I moved in to live with my future husband. Everyone says the way to a man's heart is through his tummy. All I can say is, "Girl.. you're aiming about 6 inches too high." ;)
Like most men I've dated, he could cook. He'd learnt the skill as a Uni student when his parents moved abroad for work and he was left to fend for himself. He could also clean the house, do laundry without mixing up the whites and coloureds, iron shirts AND do the usual male things like open jam jars. I think this was partly why I was so keen to marry him... it was like hey, a hubby and a maid in the same body! ;))
He tried unsuccessfully for about 6 months to make me learn how to cook. He viewed it as an essential life skill for everyone, it wasn't as if he was trying to make me cook for him. Eventually, he resorted to forcing me into the kitchen. First, I helped peel potatoes and carrots and shell eggs. Then I graduated to stirring the pot/saucepan and putting things into the oven. Eventually, I was deemed good enough to prepare the side dishes while he did the main meals. All this went on for about a year and all the while, it never looked like I was ever going to learn how to cook properly. The only thing I could do well that he couldn't was cook rice in a rice cooker and that's only because I'm Asian and grew up eating rice daily.
Then one day, I decided that I would surprise him by making a meal. It would have to be simple, fool-proof and involve no deep frying because I was (and still am) deathly frightened of lots of hot oil. So I looked up recipes online and decided on one. Imagine his surprise when he came home to find me chopping and dicing in the kitchen. Voluntarily too! The meal proved to be a success and from there on, I was hooked.
I'm still not very good at it. IMHO, a real cook should be able to improvise and cook by feel. I still need the security of a recipe to follow. Sometimes I get over-ambitious and ruin stuff. There was this infamous Spaghetti Carbonara incident which still makes us laugh. Good friends of mine had given me two cookbooks for Christmas one year (thanks Shortcake and Totoro!). Since Dear Hubby is very fond of carbonara, I decided I would make him the real deal... authentic carbonara as eaten by real Italians! Not like our usual cheat method, with carbonara sauce from sachets. Eat my dust, Prego!
The recipe was dead simple, had about 4-5 ingredients and perhaps 4 steps. But the results looked... erm... foreign? Dear Hubby's used to seeing his carbonara look creamy. This one looked... egg-y? Uh-oh. We both looked into the pot of food and there was silence for a moment before Dear Hubby said, "It's okay, babe... I'll still eat it." Silently, I dished out the meal for both of us and we sat down for dinner. Complete silence reigned for another few minutes more before Dear Hubby spoke up, "You know... it actually tastes better than it looks, it's actually quite delicious." and we both burst into relieved laughter. I knew I'd married the right man when we finished our strange dinner (The Carbonara That Tasted Like Eggs!) and he leaned over to plant a kiss on my cheek, "Thank you for making the effort." Suffice to say, when we next went to the supermarket, I stocked up on the carbonara sauce sachets.
I like being able to cook. I enjoy preparing food for my husband, it's my way of saying to Dear Hubby, "I'm taking care of you." Granted, sometimes things don't turn out the way they should but he always lets me know he appreciates the effort I put in and I value that.
The subject of my cooking is the cause of much hilarity among old friends of mine who have known me forever and have never seen me display any interest in culinary matters beyond boiling water for tea. I don't blame them for teasing me endlessly about it, my own parents could hardly believe their ears when I said I now did most of the cooking in our household. I could read from their shocked expressions, "The poor man! He must having bread and water every day for meals! Our daughter can't cook for shit!"
But it looks like my cooking adventures will be put on hold for a bit once the baby comes. Our maid will take overthe cooking duties while I struggle to get the hang of diaper-changing and breast-feeding. But I'll be back in the kitchen soon and maybe this time, I'll learn to make carbonara the way Dear Hubby likes it.