#1. I never went to culinary school
That’s why I love that exchange between two of my favorite chefs in an episode of my all-time favorite Anthony Bourdain production, Mind of a Chef:
Gabrielle Hamilton: I didn’t go to cooking school.
Jacques Pépin: Oh good! [chuckles] Me neither.
#2. But I did go to baking school
. . . although this doesn’t quite count. It was a mere five-month affair in 2016/2017 from which I emerged with a piece of electronic paper called a WSQ (I never remember what it stands for), plus I dropped out of my practicum two weeks prematurely because the beardy French chef I had interned with couldn’t stand my guts, neither could I, his—which subsequently got me booted out of a mentorship program with some dude of a restaurateur-chef, who was cooler and hotter, pretty articulate, and a true man-about-town, without the beard. Oh, and he smelled a lot nicer too!
#3. I’m wise with my money, I don’t splurge on shoes (or cosmetics)
I spend them all with amazing, astute abandon on the kitchen, for the dining table, with the general goal of maintaining peace in the household. And why wouldn’t you find peace if you’ve been kissed with joy and fulfillment? That’s why I love that exchange between Midori and Toru, the protagonist in Haruki Murakami’s début novel, Norwegian Wood. I may not be like Midori, who owns only a single bra, but there’s something so bewitching about a girl who redirects her lingerie budget to the procurement of a fry pan.
#4. Here, I’m thankful I don’t have a husband to nag at me
I mean all those pots and pans, and china, and plateware, and oh my goodness! And I never stop, I don’t know how. All you need to do is to keep hush, and don’t tell my mother!
#5. I make really nice hot cross buns
Rather than waste words and spend useless adjectives telling you how good they are, why don’t I just let Viv do the talking? Viv, here, by the way, ain’t me, she’s my friend:
Her First Batch of Four Hot Buns
Btw, your hot cross buns are very nice! Love the flavor of the spices in it! I gobbled 2 down once I reached home … now wondering if I shd take another
Her Second Batch of Four Hot Buns
But really, it’s difficult to stop at one ? I love breads with fruits in them n the spices though might seem a little strong at first bite but it just makes me want to eat more . . .
I feel a little bad making an off-season hot cross (that was the second batch, which I kneaded up a month or so after Easter). I shall dream up some sexy, vibrant variant of this same hot, yummy bun.
Will you buy my new, reimagined buns when they pass my rigorous tests?
Actually, I have, I've just dreamed up some fancy new bun! Scroll down ...
#6. I learned that buns can set you free, buns and their siblings
By siblings, I’m referring to cakes, confectionery, choux, you know, all those things I sent myself to baking school for. I’m waxing a little poetic and philosophical here, oh my, stop! But really, I figured that if I didn’t evolve and do the things that make me happy, the rut will come after me and sit on me, its lousy, fat ass heavy on me, suffocating me, drowning me, drowning, drowning, gone . . .
#7. That’s not to say I had spent 14 fruitless years teaching writing
I don’t know what happened during this time, but I probably only half took life seriously, practiced lots of yoga (I’m a certified yoga teacher!), got to know Shakespeare quite well, bummed around a little, got bullied every now and then by Depression, that big, bad Meanie, and lost a veritable chunk of faith in myself, but I was fortunate enough to have had the chance to work at this wonderful craft called writing.
It’s hard, writing’s so hard, but no craft ever gets honed without that first step, the second step, and then the third, before inadvertently hurtling towards some kind of clarity in the mind, some quiet sense of mastery, some mysterious grace and beauty on the paper.
#8. I was born in Singapore
. . . and grew up speaking Hokkien with my Ah Mah, my paternal grandmother, so much so my English was so foul I would pronounce ice cream as ai kling when I was four, perhaps five? Life slaps you with a sort of irony all the time, doesn’t it, particularly when I reflect on my language skills. Today, my Hokkien, if ever spoken, is jit teh, jit teh—literally, “one piece by one piece” in Hokkien— always told to me by some hawker at the food center, or some sweet lady selling chicken, half in jest, half in disapproval, with an accompanying shake of the head and a cheeky smile.
Well, if my Hokkien is piecemeal bad, at least, my Mandarin is not so, and my French is good enough to initiate a little flirt here and a more daring one there, and my Japanese is proficient to the degree I can have a conversation with Auntie Yoshiko—a dear and longtime friend and something of a culinary mentor—about how hip and liberating it is not to have to wear a bra, and why Catherine Deneuve would forever be, for me, the epitome of feminine elegance.
And if all these eight things aren’t quite enough, go ahead, click on my ratatouille!
. . . or you could say hello to my fancy new bun