Shirl


When I was a child, my parents were always very strict with me at the dining table. I didn’t really have any choice as to what I wanted to eat. Every piece of food that went onto my plate, or, rather, my rice bowl, was supposed to be finished. Not even a grain of rice was to be left over. I must say, if I were allowed to pick and choose I would probably have missed out on a lot of flavors and ingredients, which, more often than not, didn’t have the appeal that would please a kid’s appetite. Come to think of it, it was a definite advantage that my parents have instilled an “eat what you are served” habit in me. With an open mind about food, I’m eager to embrace any new experiences that the diverse food cultures around me have to offer, be they unfamiliar dishes or exotic ingredients that many may consider an acquired taste.

I didn’t really care to learn about cooking when I was young. Though I would, sometimes, observe just out of curiosity. My mother, a full-time homemaker, would cook almost every single day. She wasn’t a fancy cook but she always made sure that our meals were balanced in nutrition despite living on a modest food budget. In fact, she had made many very simple dishes that didn’t require more than a few ingredients or condiments each. It is from her cooking that I’ve learnt the importance of picking the freshest ingredients and letting them shine in their own flavors. These principles have largely shaped my palette and cooking style till today.

Cooking became a part of me only after I’d left home for college, for practical reasons obviously. Trial by error has been my motto. Recipes seem more a point of departure for me while improvisation shows me the way. Cooking is indeed a very organic process, which I enjoy immensely. By that I mean we watch for the change in color, listen for the right sound, feel for the texture, smell for the aroma, taste for the flavor. It’s a great way to utilize our senses which we often take for granted. For that, I’ve fallen in love with cooking.

I have the good fortune to have, in my life, come across many people who share my penchant for great food and cooking. Not only have I had loads of fun dining out, tasting and exchanging recipes, but I’ve also got to learn a little about various cultures, their customs, traditions and history. Chatting with people about their local or native food is another thing I love to do, as I’ve often found in my travels that it’s a very good way to break into a culture. Not to mention the potential of gaining a lifelong friendship down the road. It is these experiences and knowledge I acquire, in turn, inspire me to experiment in the kitchen even more. I hope the fun will never end.


10 Q&A's

How would you best describe your style of eating/ cooking?
Californian / Mediterranean.  Straight forward cooking; plenty of grilling and roasting.  Loving all kinds of fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, not to mention seafood, some good cheese, maybe a nice cocktail, and a sumptuous steak frites every now and then.

What section of the grocery store do you most look forward to shop?
My local Whole Foods Market could very well be the smallest one there exists.  So I actually visit every aisle to get all the staples and essentials.  I also love going to the Wednesday Santa Monica Farmers Market when I can.    

What foods do you look forward to each season?
These days when you visit a grocery store, you pretty much can get most kinds of fruits and vegetables all year round.  But if you frequent farmers market, you really get into eating what's in season.  For me, these are the produce I most look forward to when in season.
     -Summer:  Nectarines, Tomatoes, Watermelons
     -Autumn:  Grapes, Green Beans, Parsnips
     -Winter: Oranges, Chestnuts, Sweet Potatoes
     -Spring:  Morel Mushrooms, Strawberries, Artichokes

At this point in your life, what part of the world would you most love to travel to?
Recently spent a lovely day at the Expo Milano sampling a variety of delicacies from countries around the world.  For sure my bucket list of travel destinations are ever expanding.  The list includes India and the Middle East.  I do miss the food in Hong Kong!

What makes you smile?
My family.  My friends.  Sunny sky.  Rainy days.  Sometimes just the silliest thought would give me a good laugh.

What's the life lesson so far?
Love what you do!  Learn to find a way to enjoy whatever you need to be dealing with.  To quote Sufi, "This too shall pass".

What do you have for breakfast on a regular day?
Earl grey tea, cafe latte or chai to start.  Some good bread with olive oil, cheese, eggs or con tomate.  Maybe a chocolate croissant too.

Three foods you could never live without?
Let's say my favorite foods on earth are:  Stone crab claws, truffles, and grilled steak.

Three foods you could easily live without?
Meat that is "gamey", bitter melon, and any dessert that is seriously sweet.

Blueberries, raspberries or strawberries?
All of them!

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