115 pounds, five-foot-five.
That is my weight and height, and I am notoriously underweight. Yet a relatively new characteristic of my ever-evolving life seems to be a paradox with it: I love to eat.
Well, at times.
My favorite cuisines are Korean, Japanese, and Italian (who doesn’t like Italian?), while I shun Chinese food – which is ironic, as I am an ethnic Chinese. I can eat the night away with those three cuisines, but I never gain weight. I attribute it to a fast metabolism, which may be the case. But everyone who knows me attributes it to infamously slow eating, which is also the case. Funnily, some of them envy me (or at least mock-envy) for not gaining weight, and believe that the key to not gaining too much weight would be to eat more slowly.
It’s strange how the society I hail from frowns on slow eating and wants to finish as quickly as possible. In Paris, where I went on exchange, the mealtime was a social event in itself, where people sit down for hours and just chat about everything under the sun. But I digress.
As much as I liked eating, I couldn’t always get the dishes I wanted because they were all from outside – all restaurant food. At home, the food was much simpler – but this wasn’t necessarily a good thing. Breakfast was heavenly, but my other viands tended to be repetitive so much so that I begged for a more diverse pantry. My brother, who is a fantastic amateur cook, sometimes cooked for the both of us, and it was paradise. But as much as I respect Manang, our maid who has been with us since I was born, I asked her if she could be more… innovative in her cooking. She wasn’t a cook; she merely knew how to cook. There’s a huge difference, and I’m learning it the hard way (I shall explain as I go) myself.
So it was probably heaven-sent that my best friend would later introduce me to Nigella Lawson, that impossibly intimate so-called Domestic Goddess (hence the title of this post), during our university years. I had previously taken up a culinary arts elective in high school (which I enjoyed very much, but didn’t fully immerse into at home – I think I gave my brother the recipes), but it wasn’t until I watched Nigella Express over and over when my inner cook finally, truly emerged.
Previously, my only home cooking experiences were directing Manang to make my own thought-up versions of minestrone, and I didn’t even touch the ingredients myself. But all that changed after my college graduation, when my brother’s best friends, who had known me since I was a baby, asked me what I wanted for a gift. Since they shook aside my refusals, I finally relented and asked for my very own copy of the Nigella Express book.
Just as I had rashly styled my own outfits when I first started buying boots on my own initiative, so I brazenly jumped (or made my return) into the cooking world. I annotated my copy of Express using post-its, and tried making my own, feeling-wise revisions to the recipes to better suit what was on hand for cheap here in the Philippines. The very first Nigella recipe I made was also the very first one shown me by my best friend, the Express breakfast recipe Mexican Scrambled Eggs, which is basically scrambled eggs with vegetables and bread, in this case tortilla bread.
Now that I had a cookbook with me on hand all the time, I could finally eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. Ever since then, I have been cooking most of my meals myself, unless there were take-outs, which remains to be quite common.
I also taught Manang some of the recipes, to empower her too to diversify her cooking. Today, she knows how to cook Mexican scrambled eggs and pea and pesto soup, and always assists me especially when it comes to things I’m still unsure of.
Again, just like my fashion sense (or lack thereof), I was able to establish myself through cooking. If you notice, most of my Instagram shots are dishes I cooked the first time, and since they’re automatically cross-published on Twitter and Facebook, I’m glad to say that I’ve become known for my cooking among my peers.
Now, the challenge for me is to be more socially responsible in my cooking – it lies in both cooking and ingredients. Naturally, the most important thing is that what I cook and eat are healthy, as not taking care of our health constitutes a lack of CSR 3.0. Secondly, and this is a reminder to myself, as much as possible, what I use in my cooking are from the Philippines and sourced responsibly. It’s a little bit of a challenge when you’re not in control of procuring groceries, but I like to hope that I’m improving in my CSR footprint. Lastly, although I am lazy to do it at times, I need to use as little kitchenware and dinnerware as possible, so that dishwashing is minimized.
And so ends the introduction to this column. I’ll be writing about some special recipes or twists thereof here every so often, so do come back and check!