I used to have a bit of a reputation for cooking during my time in Singapore Polytechnic, while I was in the Rover Scouts. But since graduation, opportunities to cook have reduced, diminished, gotten lesser… Well, you get the point.
So there was an early Christmas gathering somehow. And the method of feeding the people, potluck. Great, what am I supposed to do for that? I basically took the whole week before the event to figure out what to make. Such is the stress of potluck. You need to make things that are fundamentally edible, as well as palatable and ideally delicious. And that in turn is sort of an subconscious scorecard for everyone else to grade. And the personal report card comes in the sheer number of invites you get for future potluck events. (Did I make it sound like a science?)
Die lah, kept the iron ladle in the closet for so long already, sure rusty one. What if I end up poisoning the people?
In desperation, I consulted the people who will attend the gathering. What you gonna bring?
Ice cream, curry chicken, salad, chicken drumlets, pandan cake, log cake, sheperd’s pie, chips and dip…
Ok… I figured any meat dish at this point of time isn’t really a good idea. Plus, the majority are ladies at the gathering. Always better to get something they don’t mind eating. Very quickly the choices are narrowed down to Veg and Fruit. Easy enough, I guess. Now to figure out what to make and how to do it. Internet’s no good for recipes, they always have this nonsense thing called artichokes. Supposed to be this very comon vegetable everywhere else during this season, just that I can’t find them at NTUC Fairprice and as asian, I don’t really fancy such an exotic vegetable, not to mention angmohs tend to have differing tastes in such things. And preparing fruits require delicate handling. I definitely don’t want to serve mashed papayas, sure lose points. Vegetables it is. And they need to last a 40min bus ride and then some. Stir frying is out, the heat from the cooking will stay and wilt the vegetables itself. Steaming or boiling followed by an ice bath should keep the vegetables in the desired texture. Next for the taste.
Garlic, lots of it. There never seems to be a worry about too much garlic. So I just whack la. No such thing as too much garlic for me, only too little. To play it safe, one of those prepared sauces was used. I added mushrooms into the sauce to simmer. It’s supposed to enhance the taste of the sauce… Well, at least that’s what my mom and the TV cooks do. The end result, a garlicy sauce ready for the vegetable platter.
So now everything is ready, off I go for the potluck.
Turns out a majority of the ladies attending weren’t much of a cook to begin with. Many brought ready-to-eat stuff like takeaways. So I sort of score easy points for the ‘extra’ effort. :p
Culinary banter ensued, like: “Where you learn how to cook?”
To which I answered, “Oh, I just peep over my mum’s shoulder whenever she’s in the kitchen.”
“My mum would have chased me out if I did that.”
“Aiyah, times are different now lor. Men today need to cook already.”
Incidentally, the man of the house was preparing his curry chicken. I enter his kitchen domain to observe and maybe pick up a few pointers.
So the ladies were still impressed with the fact I actually cooked. Their chit chat evolved to finding a girl. Right. As if. I definitely heard too many of these grand ideas.
Anyway, we just went on to eat the food, which is the real test. Make or break time. Can my cooking pass? Not sure, at least there was minimal leftovers in my tray. Guess that’s good news.
And it’s been 4 days, no news of food poisoning. So I guess I’m clear. Maybe the chef never left.