I have a rather horrible habit when I’m cooking in the kitchen. I tend to day dream in the kitchen. It is amazing that I haven’t set the kitchen on fire or burn any of my meals…well, at least, not yet.Kitchen, I must say, can be very inspiring at times. I shamelessly admit that most of my ideas in writing comes from the kitchen. This one particularly, is inspired when I was cooking.
Last night, I decided to make some jelly as dessert, simply because it can last at least a week in the fridge and can be eaten anytime of the day. You know, those packed crystallized konyaku jelly that you can easily obtained from sundry stores. It’s very cheap and easy to prepare, and I would have shared it with my dad if his meeting in KL this week was not canceled. Oh, well, guess I’ll just share it with err….my mom outlaw since she’s in town and adore my jellies.
While I was cutting canned peaches to mix it with the concoction, I sighed and reminisce about my childhood days when I was growing up in England as well as in Malaysia. There’s this long forgotten tradition that keeps my heart warm just by remembering. It’s the tradition of exchanging warm food with your neighbours.
My family used to have friendly neighbours as well as constantly visiting fellow Malaysians when we were in the Great Britain, and every now and then, my mother would cook up some simple Malaysian dishes or cakes and share it with the neighbour who happened to be locals. They adored my mother’s cooking, and in return, they would cook up some amazing warm dishes of their own every now and then and give it to my mother to share with the family. And the sharing ritual would go on and on and on. That particular neighbour used to be hostile to us because we are Asian and probably do not have good impression on us in the first place. But they had open up to my family since my mother shared her dishes with them. In no time at all, my family become their best friend and we’re often invited for backyard BBQs with their family. It’s actually nice to share dishes with your neighbour, it keeps the spirit of neighbourhood alive, no matter what country you’re from. It has somehow set our differences aside.
Things did not change when we return to Malaysia. My mother continue to cook and share her famous signature dishes or desserts with our neighbour who usually would be very grateful and they too would return the favour by cooking up dishes of their own and share it with my family. Things actually became merrier during the Muslim fasting month, as my mom and the neighbours get infected by the ’share the dishes’ virus. As you all probably know, during the fasting month the Muslim housewives would cook various dishes for breaking the fast, and yeah, my mom and her comrades gone nuts about this. They would shamelessly go around and exchange dishes with each other, that I had myself believe that my mother only cook one large portion of dishes and share it with the neighbours and get various kind of dishes in return.The tradition didn’t just end during the Muslim fasting month, it goes on and on and on endlessly back then.
Time flies, and I’m all grown up now. My mother no longer cook for me because she is not living with me, and I have to tend to my own meals with my own cooking. Don’t ask me why I cook. I’m a very fussy and hard to please girl when it comes to food. So cooking my own dishes is the best way to feed myself and stop my foul mouth from complaining.
I’ve come to a realization that the tradition of exchanging food has long been shot dead, especially in the city. I don’t see people sharing their warm dishes with their neighbours anymore, and MYOB sticker is plastered clearly on everyone’s face. No one is friendly with one another anymore. Even a simple hi or friendly smile is hard to come by.
What kind of a society we’re becoming, I don’t know, because to me, the modern society these days lack ‘warm human touch’. Deep inside, I feel that exchanging dishes with the neighbours is a good tradition worth continuing, especially in the current state of economy where not many of us can afford to eat a variety of food at one sitting without upsetting our budget. Let’s just remember that it’s not only through RELA or RC meetings that we can strengthen the spirit of neighbourhood. Small gestures like sharing and exchanging dishes can too.
Cleffairy: Exhanging/sharing food with the neighbours is a tradition long forgotten but worth reviving.