Wednesday, 9 December 2009

an (in)significant year of peeling shallots and garlic...

it's funny how sometimes, the slightest thing will call forth the most insignificant of memories from the back of our heads in vivid clarity.

last weekend, while i was preparing my guacamole... more specifically, while i was peeling the shallots for my guacamole, i was suddenly brought back to the time when i learnt to peel shallot and garlic for the first time! yes, it's so insignificant, that i spent a few moments to marvel at the complex workings of the mind!

anyway, here's the story... once upon a time, when i was in form one, mom had this sudden urge to quit her job as an accounts clerk and partner up with my aunt to start their own economy rice business in a friend's kopitiam (coffee shop).

and i hated it! well, i have nothing against this undertaking in itself. what got to me was that the schedule of our whole family had to change to suit this new venture. suddenly, the whole family had to wake up early so that all of us can leave the house in one car and dad can first drop bro at his school, then drop mom at the kopitiam, and then drop me at my school before going to his own school (where he taught).

and after school, dad would pick up me and bro to the kopitiam, where we'll have our lunch. normally we won't have much pickings in the dishes by then, coz secondary school let out at 2.05pm and that, to normal people, is considered way past lunch time! but of course, sometimes mom do remembered that there's a certain dish or two that are our favourites and kept some aside for us. then after lunch, we'll just hang around there until mom finishes before going home together.

for a sleepyhead like me, having to wake up earlier than necessary really pissed me off. not only that, i had to put off my after-school nap until after 4pm! so most of the time, i'll just mope around in the kopitiam, sitting around and doing nothing.

no, it never occurred to me to take out my books and start working on my homework on the kopitiam table. a model student, aren't i? hehe... and i seldom take out the story books borrowed from the school library to read either, coz reading at that hour will only lull me to sleep faster than anything! feeling extremely sleepy but can't put my head down and shut my eyes is the ultimate recipe for crankiness!

so after a week or two, mom decided to put my idle hands to good use by thrusting a basketful of garlic and a small knife at me with the direct order of "PEEL!" that, ladies and gentlemen, was how i learnt to peel garlic for the very first time in my entire life! the next day, it was a basketful of shallots. and god, how i hated it! the dull, repetitive and unimaginative act of never ending peeling! and more than the act of peeling, i hated the stubborn smell that lingered on my hands that just refused to go away, however much i scrubbed!

as for bro and dad, they were tasked to cut the plastic sheets and newspapers, and fold them nicely for when customers 'ta-pao' (pack to go). no, we didn't use polystyrene or plastic boxes back then.

anyway, mom's economy rice business lasted only 1 year, because the returns were similar to what mom was earning while sitting in a comfortable air-conditioned office. and no one was happier than yours truly! not only for myself, but for my whole family generally and mom specifically.

after starting this business, mom was busier than ever! not only did she need to wake up earlier, but after business hours, she'll need to prepare the ingredients for the next day. and there're no rest on off days too, coz off days were market days. then there's the headache of thinking and planning the dishes to cook for the week... so tiring! so when mom's ex-boss and colleagues came for lunch one day and casually mentioned that they had not found anyone to take mom's place and wished that mom would go back to her previous post, mom jumped at it.

and thus, ended my happy days (not!) as the garlic and shallot peeler! :)

1 comment:

Biow said...

ahh.. at least she tried a mid career switch.. i wish i hv the guts like your mom..