How I Cook III

It took me more than a year to come back, but here I am again. I didn’t mean to go away for this long. I admit that at times I forgot about the blog completely. Due to several new projects and traveling, my weekly ritual of cooking, photographing, and writing just fell away from my routine.  I wrote and worked through bouts and bouts of burnout. I did think of several blog post ideas, composed sentences in my head, but eventually let them slip away, somehow not energized or inspired enough to return. I became sick of rituals and routines, of being disciplined. All the projects I had for this blog stopped being interesting to me. At one point, I came to a realization that I had made too many ambitious plans for this blog, too many challenges for myself. Despite my hiatus from blogging, I still read a lot of food writing, just not as feverishly as before. I’m not as addicted to podcasts but have devoured a number of Netflix food programs in the past year and a half. I read (and loved) Gabrielle Hamilton’s Blood, Bones, and Butter and Ruth Reichl’s Garlic and Sapphires and bought a handful of cookbooks: Nicole Ponseca and Muguel Trinidad’s I Am a Filipino: And This Is How We Cook, Bocuse in Your Kitchen, Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, and Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty. So this is how I’ve been cooking.

  1. In the kitchen, I aim less for novelty, mastery, and precision and more for familiarity, ease, and adaptability.
  2. Because I decided to stop assigning myself cooking challenges, like cooking a certain number of recipes from a new cookbook, I stopped going out of my way to find ingredients that, only after one use for one recipe, will mostly sit untouched until their expiration dates. This also means I spend less on grocery.
  3. I always try to have the following in my pantry: Parmesan cheese, olives, capers, anchovies, pasta, garlic, onion, olive oil, butter, milk, bread, wine vinegar, yogurt, and eggs. You can always make a meal out of these ingredients.
  4. Realizations and admissions:
    1. I hate making complicated salads in my tiny kitchen. Simple salad greens dressed with olive oil, wine vinegar, salt, and pepper are fine.
    2. I just love cooking Italian food the most. There’s just no competition here. (See above for my favorite pantry items.) So if I ever visit your home somewhere outside of Thailand and you want to experience Thai cuisine, don’t ask me to cook Thai food for you. Cheap and delicious Thai food is available everywhere in Thailand, so I mostly don’t bother.
    3. OK, I can cook a few Thai dishes pretty well. And I still want to learn to make a few more. I do feel a little guilty and embarrassed about not being that knowledgeable or comfortable with Thai cooking.
    4. Curries are actually not difficult to make, nor do they have to take a long time to make.
    5. Sometimes you don’t have to have everything in the ingredient list to make a dish taste good. After you’ve been cooking awhile, you know whether or not to substitute or subtract certain ingredients all together.
    6. The best way to fry an egg is this Bon Appétit‘s way, but there’s no need to use olive oil. The technique is perfect, and I’ve fried eggs this way ever since.
    7. Life’s too short to be feeling guilty about buying beautiful cookbooks and never using them. Plus, I think they’ll be cooked from eventually, when the right mood visits you. Sitting on the shelf and collecting dust is part of every book’s job anyway.
  5. Recipes I learned during my blogging hiatus and now love to cook: frittata, spaghetti with marmite, pasta puttanesca, pasta carbonara, pasta al limone, pasta with chicken ragu bianco, summer squash pasta, cacio e pepe, spaghetti with tomatoes and anchovy butter, saag aloo, chickpea curry, eggs in purgatory, Leela Punyaratabandhu’s khao pad nam liap (fried rice with Chinese black olives) in her Bangkok cookbook, and Alice Waters’ ratatouille recipe in Genius Recipes cookbook
  6. Dishes I want to be able to cook by the end of this year: quiche (crust and all), adobo, larb moo/gai (spicy minced pork or chicken salad), tom kha gai (Thai chicken galangal soup), soda bread, and yogurt cake


Featured image by Syd Wachs on Unsplash