13. The year of change.

It is a conversation often had, throughout the year. How this year has been, how fast it has gone. And even early on in the year, I noticed and sensed, big things were brewing, in lives beyond my own. And now that the year has gone, and a new one has just begun, it is once again that time to launch into some reflection of sorts.

Obviously, there were the big pre-planned events. Weddings, those which I have been lucky and blessed enough to be part of in one way or another, and those I kick myself for missing. A new welcomed member of the family, Fruit Tart, my one and only brother-in-law, and the Sister, now a Mrs. Numerous pictures of engagement rings springing up on social media, announcements of relationships moving on to the next phase, some of which have been much-anticipated. Some took trips of their lives, not quite in search of anything in particular, but finding much, much more. Some departed old posts, old roles, in search of new challenges, or a fresh new start, or simply for a change of priorities and circumstance. New jobs found, new exciting and nerve-wracking challenges abound, and school! Of the cooking nature (Almost jealous, Flo!), and of the academic (Oh, me. TEEHEE).

That said, while it has been very exciting for those around me, perhaps the most amazing thing was that change was something that came to me too, and in rather big ways. A dream that begun at the age of 5, deserted in search of the new and exciting while in search of myself, a dream I convinced was not in my capacity to dream.. A dream that I somehow managed to revive out of being a stubborn old mule, a dream I was allowed to realise just at the brink of giving it up for good, a dream I am blessed to be able to pursue into this new year, and in the coming years, with such support from home. A dream that has finally become my reality, a reality I am continuing to make mine. All of this, impossible without blessings from the Big Man up above, and the big men and ladies at home. While in achieving this, it meant having to leave certain good things behind; a job I enjoyed, with colleagues I loved. For those things as they were, I was blessed to have, and for their support to pursue my dream, I could not be more grateful for.

As  it goes with gaining something, you must be content to sacrifice as well. It meant, once again, leaving my beloved home which I have spent much time away from, and therefore the people who bring me back every time. Thank you, once again, for still being part of my life, and letting me know I still have a place to call home with you all. Thank you for letting me share in your life’s big and little moments in the past year, and I hope we will continue to share them in this new one, no matter how far apart we are. Like I heard it said, good friends are like stars – you don’t need to see them to know that they are there. (FIRST BIT OF SAPPY FOR 2014!!! :D)

In 2013, I learnt some things about myself. The walls I have built, how strong, and how weak they are. It was a year I had to learn about myself, and learn about loving greatly. Whether I have achieved that, I am still unsure, but I can not be more thankful, for having been made just that little bit braver, braver to try. I’ve learnt how much I’ve changed, how much I haven’t. Learning to compromise, learning to give, learning to take. Learning to lean a little, and also provide support. Learning to unlearn old stubborn habits forged over the last few years, and making peace with the things that I cannot control, that I cannot help, and that I cannot provide, as much as I wish to. It has been a year filled with surprises, both lovely and not so lovely, high highs, and low lows. I have received much, so much, for which I can never be grateful enough for. I made my mistakes, and as 2013 closed on a slightly less saccharine note, I hope the year ahead allows me the chance to show growth from the last.

It has been an amazing year – not because it was pure greatness and happy all round (though it was mostly that, such luck!), but because it has been full of new, full of change, full of challenges of the good kind. S.Korea even has a female president now! Okay, that’s all I can come up with at this moment, but it’s just to signify the big things that have happened this last year. It has been a big year, if I can say so for myself and many I know. Constancy with the things that ground you and keep you whole, while the absence of stagnancy, to keep us growing – the makings of not just a good year, but a good life. Such was 2013. Thank you, for all who helped make it happen!

I pray 2014 will be an interesting, if not good, one for us all. Up and on, as us Saints would say!

A good roast, an excellent cuppa

The surprise in Seoul

The surprise in Seoul

Before 2008, the main memory of my coffee-drinking experience was getting a headache after a sip of Starbucks’ caramel macchiato, and falling asleep in the car. I was a pretty obedient child, I might add – The Mother told me not to drink coffee when I was a child, because ‘it’s not good for you’, and I really didn’t. Strangely enough, I loved walking into commercial coffee places, and while I always ordered some junk-y non-coffee frappuccino to validate my full-day occupancy in that corner of the shop to study with friends, I did enjoy swathing myself with the aroma of freshly ground coffee. Somehow, though, I never quite thought of drinking the actual thing. Till Sydney.

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To and back from the land of Oz

Not been too long since my feet have touched Aussie soil, but compared to a quickie trip filled with wedding dresses and family time, the trip is now slightly extended, with brodesmaids dresses (3 months of wedding dress saga had just past), more friend-time, more me-time.

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Ask me what’s on the itinerary, and the first thing I wanted was, of course, Single Origins’ coffee. That might not have happened till the next day due to the delay in the flight, but with my usual order plus 2 more pour overs (Australian single origin!), I’m sure I did pretty well.

Post-Bangkok trip over a random weekend, and another thing to miss about Sydney was the Thai food. Strange, but true. It’s that good, people.

And of course, it wouldn’t quite be being in Aussie till you’ve had your fill of weekend, or even weekday, brunches. The Aussie culture might be a growing trend in Singapore, with some decent mentionables about, but lucky for our dear Sydney, the progressive and innovative are always lurking to keep you engaged and interested.

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Hm orange hollandaise, olives, herbs, edible
flowers of vivid colours.. Spring/summer on a plate.

A trip that went by too fast..

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Re-adjusting

Hello there, dear neglected foodblog. It appears that yet again, another 3 months has passed since. I do have much to tell though, even if it’s not about food, really.

It has been more than 3 months, actually, since things in my life has moved on from its stalemate status, and I have officially crossed over the ‘adulthood’ threshold, joining the countless before me – I have officially joined the workforce! Yes, I now am earning for my keep, and it does feel much better than life as an unemployed new graduate. The major thing though, is not so much getting employed.. But moving back home for the job.

I’ve been looking forward to it for ages, going back home, that is. I wanted to, straight after graduating, but for more than one reason, I decided to stay where I was. I  still looked for opportunities though, but it was a strange feeling when that opportunity came to me. But cutting out all the unnecessary bits, I did it, I moved back home after being away and pretty much living on my own for 5 years.

Of course, I came back, at times, more than once a year in the past few years. So despite the rapid changes here, I thought it wouldn’t be a big difference, just a little bit of getting used to again. After all, the majority of the way things work around here should be something I’m familiar with, no? I wasn’t wrong, but my initial self-assurances weren’t right either. 4 months on, and there are still times I wonder just how much has changed for people here.. and how much have I changed over there. That even my tastebuds could have changed so much.

Being away and on my own, it opened me up to food. I confess my picky-eating habits as a child. I absolutely refused spicy food until I was 15, I refused to eat several different types of vegetables, offals, and never really drank coffee till I was away. Having to shop for your own groceries to cook can become an obsession for most overseas students – we all somehow fall in love with grocery shopping, absolutely no joke – and you begin to tell the good from the bad, what’s cheap and what’s expensive, and whether it is all worth it. You try new things, because after all, you are in a new land, you’re young, and surrounded by multiple cultures, why not? New friends, new experiences. Food simply becomes a part of it. Food becomes the centre of it. You learn to eat food, to buy it, to cook it, and really begin to appreciate it. Through food, you get to know people, and you get to know about other cultures as well. That was how it was for me. So, there you go, go out, live out there, and food itself will surprise you!

One thing that some might agree with, and some might not. I, myself, am in conflict. My tongue has a certain type of memory that can tell when a familiar taste is lost. Which is probably why I like to ask for my mom to cook something herself rather than get someone else to do it. Which is why I get extremely upset when I return to a place that has changed beyond recognition, and of course, the food has, too. But yet, I have noticed that despite my boring, habitual tongue has also changed. There are definite types of foods I prefer to others for everyday, because I have just gotten so used to the flavours I partake overseas, and in my own cooking, that upon return home, I can distinctly feel a disconnect. As much as I hanker for local cuisine, I cannot erase the last 5 years of eating away from my food memories, the ones my tongue have stored away for me. No longer can I eat oily, salty, and strongly flavoured foods everyday like I used to. Now, instead of craving for local cuisine, of which I have greater variety available to me than before, I crave and miss the food of my second home.

Getting used to being back home, having to reconcile with the changes I have not had an opportunity to before, familiarising myself with what I am supposed to be familiar with again.. Even if all that is done, the food memories, and the subsequent food cravings, will be the worst to bear. Because it will last, wherever I go.

 

That thing about food..

There is a joy when meeting people who share common interests, similar experiences, as we all know. It is when sharing about your passions and subsequently realising that you might actually share intertwined personal histories, that will leave you marvelling in the workings of the world. Or God, whichever you might believe in. They say there is technically six degrees of separation between the people on Earth, but sometimes, it can be much less than that. And finding out, can start simply with a single topic – one of my favourites, of course -

FOOD.

Strangers can come to realise they have been neighbours for years, with a shared cultural background, based on one chance meeting: A familiar accent, a t-shirt from an alma mater. A bond of friendship forged on a shared love for steak (Never EVER more than medium rare please, lest you incur my wrath..), subsequent shared sessions of perv-ing at food porn and excursions to butcheries, and as it follows, the eventual bringing together of like-minded people. Also known as, meeting friends of friends who share the same crazy obsession with crazy you (Yes, you. And me.). Who would have thought, someone who sat in the same hall as you at the same time, someone you might have come face to face with during orientation or stood behind you waiting in line to buy food during break times.. Could go so unnoticed, ended up in the same city as you did years later, still running around in separate circles, and eventually be the one who took the leap, opened his own cafe back home, and has just served you a double shot espresso skinny 3/4 latte, just the way you liked it?

That’s the amazing thing about food. It brings people together, it creates conversations, it creates bonds and linkages, makes strangers friends. I remember a lovely chat with an older gentleman at Single Origins one brisk winter morning, sharing a table as us lone-sies do. Talk to a sommelier and you realise that swift, willowy man with slicked back hair and a lofty air, speaks with such warmth and passion about wines, and you’d have learnt so much, your meal just became more memorable. Talk about food and you quickly find that we might not even get to six degrees of separation between people. It’s that integral in our lives, it’s that exciting, it’s that amazing. The passion for food forms an identity, and when shared, it becomes a community, where that passion can be developed, nurtured, and eventually blossom.

Perhaps I’m overdoing it, but I’m sure you catch my drift.

As per custom, reflections on the year past.

I was once told, that once you hit the mid-twenties, the years whiz right by you, and when people ask you for your age, you actually have to engage your mind in simple arithmetic.

I finally get it. Shite. Continue reading

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The last bit of kimchi

L-R: Kimchi packed in tight; Even my monster constainer was not big enough for this year's kimjang!

As I slice up my last bunch of kimchi and cleaned out my huge kimchi container, I felt conflicted.

(I just realised I have associated a feeling with slicing up kimchi. The immediate double-take and spontaneous ‘WHAT THE -bleep-?!?!’ follows.) [PG13] Continue reading

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Pavaroti, PappaRoti…?

This is what I call soft, fluffy, buttery heaven. With the aroma of coffee, of course.

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What ifs.

I met a chef, just a little while back, at a wedding. I was excited to be introduced – after all, he DID work at Quay for the last 3 years and started this year at Dinner in London.. Peter Gilmore and Heston Blumenthal, the two chefs who are currently my favourites, in terms of food philosophy, if not even counting how exciting their food seems to me. I may have never tried Heston Blumenthal’s food, I appreciate the fact that HE appreciates how psychologically we perceive food. Food and a bit of science and psychology – Why not?

Back to that chef. We ended up chatting a little about food, and besides the fact that I could communicate with him partially in Korean, he expressed how fascinating it was to see someone like me, who’s not in the food industry, to be so passionate about food. Of course, he had an interest in food, but he maintains that he entered the food industry for the main purpose of the career, and it was only then he learnt more and his passion grew. Hence, he just cannot believe how someone who could babble on, so very excitedly, about food, would not be involved with food day-to-day as an occupation as well. Perhaps he hasn’t met many food bloggers, or other people who love food avidly, be it dining or cooking at home. I am definitely not the only one. But his words did strike a chord with me.

It was something I began to hear quite often, in the last few years. “You seem to love food and cooking so much, why aren’t you in that industry?”, and other variants, from all different peoples. And perhaps it was at a time I was feeling jaded with aspects of my studies, and reassessing the career prospects of my chosen occupation, that I started ruminating about the possibilities of changing tracks. It felt dangerous even in my mind, and I was extremely cautious. But the more I thought about it, I knew I had to give it a try. I somehow managed to receive approval (Traditional Asian family, the dynamics and rules never change even when you’re greying) to give it a shot, and I did. It wasn’t entirely what I had hoped for, but it was a start, that first job in the kitchen. Being an all-day breakfast place, and open from morning till night, I remember falling straight to sleep every time I had a chance to half-sit on something. I had cuts and burns, and I still liked being in the kitchen, there was a touch of familiarity and excitement. I even got excited when the boxes of mushrooms came in for us to prep! But during that time, I also came into contact with some old friends who were working in an area associated with healthcare. I was reminded of why I chose healthcare in the first place, I was reminded of the demands of being a chef and the sacrifices it called for, and I learnt more about the food industry. When it was time to head back to Sydney, I finally decided that there were things I needed and wanted to do still, away from the food industry.

It wasn’t easy, especially when I know it gives me great joy, and to be reminded, by many who see that. I, too, aspire to be a great chef, on par with my favourites, as impossible as that sounds, but there are so many other things I feel like I need to do, want to do, that I can’t possibly be everything at the same time. But I’m not giving up on doing something with food entirely. I guess that’s the whole purpose of this. An outlet, I suppose. It’s not the same as getting into the kitchen and working with my hands, with food, but I guess that’s the great thing about food. There’s always a way to enjoy food, through eating it, cooking it, photographing it, or plainly talking or writing about it. The sad thing is my ever-expanding waistline…!

I will never forget something he said. “If someone like you, was in a position like me, right now, I wonder what it would be like..” (in Korean) I wonder that, too. And that’s all for now, I can only simply wonder..

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