“Don’t come into the kitchen. I’m cooking!”

“Stay away from the hot stove!”

“Don’t touch the oven! You’ll burn yourself.”

Familiar words in my childhood. I was familiar with good food, but not with the preparation.

When I was in Form 1, I was initially not given a choice but to enter the Sains Rumahtangga (Home Science) stream. I cried for days. My biggest fear was lighting the gas stove. I didn’t know how to. When the school subsequently announced that the Perdagangan (Commerce) stream was available as an alternative choice, I grabbed it and never looked back. That choice eventually shaped my future as an accountant.

Mum sometimes allowed me to enter the kitchen. When she wanted someone to prepare the ingredients for the rasam (an Indian hot and sour soup), I was the girl for that job. I would pound the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, fenugreek and garlic in the stone mortar and inhale the smell of the concoction I had just pulverised.

But when it came to the big jobs, like chopping up a chicken, it was a job for a grown-up to do.

I experienced the joys of cooking after I got married. Because my husband wasn’t too fussy about food, I would bravely throw in different types of ingredients to come up with my own recipes. When the food turned out delicious, I knew that it must have been a blessing, for what other explanation could there be for someone who had no knowledge of ingredients and how they worked together?

So there is the odd day when I would put too much salt into the food, or burn my chicken perattal because I was too busy reading the newspapers. But seeing my husband gulping it up anyway and saying “thank you for the lovely meal, dear” motivates me further.