A Malaysian Blog about Food, Family and Friends – by Lyrical Lemongrass
It was the period of Al Jarreau, Journey and The Police. I was 13 years old. I had just come back from school with a message for my parents.
“They’re not offering Commerce in my school,” I said, and promptly burst into tears.
My parents didn’t understand the intensity of my emotions and dismissed it as a phase all teenage girls go through. After all, what could possibly be so terrifying about cooking classes?
In the old days, female students were streamlined into “Commerce” and “Home Science” depending on their inclination. Having grown up in a predominantly male environment, I had an aversion for cooking, sewing and cleaning, all of which were covered in the Home Science stream. As I scanned through my Home Science text book that night, I shivered. I read Chapter 1, Safety Measures on Using a Stove. I burst into tears again. They’re going to marry me off early, I thought to myself. When I eventually nodded off to sleep, my dreams were filled with visions of child brides, toothless husbands and exploding stoves.
As fate would have it, within a week, the school had a new teacher who could teach Commerce, and all students were quickly segregated to the respective streams based on their primary school grades. It was a simplistic method and an overly easy way out for the administrative office – the ones in the first two classes were put in Commerce, while the rest were put in Home Science, presumably so that they could be married off easily upon completion of high school. As a naive 13-year-old, I didn’t think too much of it. All that mattered to me was that I didn’t have to study Home Science. In one careless, uncomplicated decision, my fate was sealed. I studied Commerce, went on to become an accountant, and got married at the ripe old age of 32. I also did not encounter any exploding stoves.
My friend, Adle, who currently lives in Canada, initiated our class reunion. Once she got the ball rolling, Janice and Ivy managed to get flight tickets from Australia and France, and soon after that, we got the locals to commit to a date. Other than a grand get-together at Simply Mel’s, a smaller group of us decided to spend the day cooking at Bayan Indah. With the help of Yvonne, our Malaysian liaison, we locked in a date with Rohani Jelani and gave her a list of dishes we wanted to learn how to cook. Over the years, we had all developed a mutual appreciation for good food and, via Facebook, we shared our love for it. As such, it made perfect sense to consolidate our discussions and organise a private class with the affable Rohani Jelani. I have said so much of her and her classes in previous posts (see links below), and I will not hesitate in recommending Bayan Indah to those who want to learn hands-on cooking in a warm, friendly environment.
And so we toiled over the stove as we whipped up ayam percik, briyani, rendang, fish curry, char koay teow and tako, not always with the ease of experienced chefs, but with laughter, camaraderie and intimacy that only old friends can understand.
Thirty years later, without the benefit of attending Home Science classes, it feels like we’ve finally come full circle.
Bayan Indah’s website – www.bayanindah.com
Food, for me, is a means to an end and not an end in itself.
Food, for me, represents the love of family, the fellowship of friends, and the community and communality it brings.