For people who has never held a spatula before in his/her life, cooking can seem to be a daunting task, maybe even mission impossible. I know. I was there before.
I learned how to cook when I went to study in Liverpool, UK for a summer semester. Prior to that, I had never left home, and never cooked anything but instant noodles. After all, why cook when you have a housemaid known as mom? There’s no housemaid in Liverpool, and with limited funds, it is cook or starve. In a way, you can say that I was forced to learn how to cook.
I’m going to show you how Liverpool transformed me, and many other fellow students.. This is going to be a long post full of pictures, be prepared..
There is one wet market in Liverpool, but we mostly bought our fresh produce from Tesco because it opens until night. Don’t really have a choice, the market closes 4.30 PM everyday. Weekdays we need to go to school, weekends we need to go travel around Britain.
From buying exclusively from Tesco, we quickly discovered a few other places to hunt for bargains. For example, Lidl (the only supermarket that does not give plastic bags) has dirt cheap canned food. We get our baked beans and tuna spread for sandwich there. Then there’s Iceland. The supermarket, not the bankrupt country. Iceland sells really cheap frozen food.
Then there’s Chinatown. There’s a couple of supermarkets in Chinatown that we would go to for rice and other Asian staples.
We always go grocery shopping together. Sometimes buying in bulk will result in further discounts. Also for the guys to help girls carry the really heavy loads.
I was thinking of blanking out the faces, but then, they appeared in my old blog before. And I figured, you either know them or you don’t. Doesn’t matter I suppose.
And then I learnt the importance of organizing the kitchen well. It is always a pain in the arse not being able to find a certain food item easily.
I shared an apartment with four other guys. Out of us five, only one had prior experience in cooking. The rest of us are noobs. You want to know how noob we were?
Kids, now you know, never ever try to microwave a cup of milo..
Cooking is never just about throwing a bunch of stuff into the pan, stirring it for a few minutes and serve. Actually the actual cooking part is the easiest part. It is the preparation works that sucks. The washing, peeling, cutting, slicing and whatnot. And some raw ingredients are nasty. For example, garlic and raw meat will always leave a long lasting smell on your hand when you handle them. And onions, oh onions, they will perpetually leave you in tears as you cut them. Most people would prefer to just go crying for mama instead..
That’s not all. You then need to segregate the prepared ingredients. Ideally, a proper lazy man’s way of cooking would be to throw everything into the pan at one go and stir away. But life isn’t ideal. Even a lazy man’s meal needs to be an edible one. Some ingredients cook much faster than the others, so there is a very real need to segregate them properly and cook certain things first before the others.
The Actual Cooking
Needless to say, there was a lot of trial and error involved. We were noobs in basically everything, the correct ingredients to use, the correct portions to use, the correct amount of cooking time, everything! And then, you know how boys are, we were more adventurous. And reckless.
What a big f**king mess!
But we had lots of fun. And learned how to cook properly.
We started like those TNB electricians, one person doing the work with everyone else watching..
But after a couple of weeks, we began to fight over who gets the privilege to cook..
Although in our case, it was not a case of showcasing our cooking prowess. We all wanted to cook because, whoever who cooks does not need to do ingredients preparation and the after meal washing up.
If you see some of my cooking posts earlier (I still refuse to call my posts as recipes), you will probably notice I sometimes use unorthodox methods to solve my problems. Well, guess where I got that from?
And I’m sure you’ve noticed my fondness on using the oven. No prize for guessing from where I learnt the oven’s awesome powers.
To further improve our cooking skills, we would sometimes bribe girls to come cook for us give us cooking lessons. We pay for the ingredients, they pay with their efforts. 😀
The Stuff We Cook
I think it took about a month before all of us were comfortable cooking. Dinner became a breeze..
Sometimes we would make soup..
Soup days were also inviting-girls-over-for-dinner days..
We would also make our own versions of British food..
And since eating out was expensive, we would regularly pack our own lunch..
That’s how I became the cook that I am now. Asian-Western rojak style, always making a mess of things, and occasionally using weird methods to solve immediate problems. Liverpool has taught me well. Well enough to feed myself anyway..
Every time I read or make blog posts such as this, I will feel a mixture of happiness and sadness. I’m glad that I took the summer semester option 😉 . I’m also sad because I miss the life there 🙁 .