Tuesday, 22 October 2013


IT all started when I got a set of kitchen utensils from mum. There was a red pot with lid, made of metal. It was big in my eyes -- at least two inch in diameter. I can't really remember the other "crockery" that came with the set -- there was an accompanying ladle, I guess. I can still remember the smell of the metal pot when it was new. (I guess it may be the smell of the paint, but there was a distinct scent.)

But it was this red pot that stays in my memory. You can pack some clay into it, pretend to put the whole thing in the oven to bake -- and then turn it out -- and you have a great cake. Or you could put water in it, put some bits of grass in it, pound with a stick till the water turned a little greenish -- and your "soup" is ready.

At times, this mixture could be "wine" which you pour into vessels (tiny vase-like things made of china which were really for Dad's caged birds). You cover the opening of the vessels with a little piece of paper or cloth with a string tied round the neck so that they look like miniature vessels of wine that roadside inns always sold to thirsty swordsmen or swordswomen in Chinese movies.

You can sit the whole afternoon at the doorstep of the house, preparing all sorts of fine cuisine with this one little pot.  Occasionally, you may need to go up the mountains to look for herbs (again inspired by those Cantonese swordfighting movies). So you go to the garden and pluck various grass and weeds growing there. These transformed to ginseng or lingzhi that only grow on precarious mountain tops. Or that one precious flower that would only bloom on a snowy mountain. It could cure all ills.

When my friends came over, we even tried to boil a few grains of rice in the pot. Mum put a stop to that. One shouldn't waste rice, she said. (But once, she let us fill our five stones with rice grains mixed with green beans. Just this once, she said -- and if we ever run out of rice in the house we can unpick the five stones and cook those rice grains.)

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