Food is a very important part of the culture where I grew up in Singapore and Malaysia.
My grandmother’s life skills were learned at home, cooking was an essential skill that every woman was expected to have. Everything was made from scratch and committed to memory, and favourite recipes were a tightly held family secret.
In my mother’s generation cooking became more of a challenge, they didn’t spend their childhood learning to cook. Ellice Handy was the principal of a Methodist girls’ school who documented the cultural mix of recipes. It was originally intended as a fundraiser to raise money for a new wing at the school. It turned out to be a complete best seller, because for the first time there was a cookbook in Malaysia and Singapore that reflected local culture. Households of my parents’ generation had a copy of this book. Families were experimenting cross-culturally and expanded the repertoire of what they cooked in their household.
This cookbook holds a lot of memories. This book was bought when we were living in the house where I was born and it followed us as we moved. Over the years, as my mother cooked, she added recipes. When I read them, I chuckle because it is in her voice.