I met PZ at work, under what I would describe as not very fortuitous circumstances. She doesn’t know this but we became friends because I thought it would be a good idea to charm her since we had to work together and people generally work better with people they like so…*
Little did I know that once I embarked on this friend-making journey that I was going to end up liking her.
And how couldn’t I? Pei Zhen or PZ, as she gently told me to call her (Pei Zhen is too long, lah!) is a highly capable Comms professional at work and a scarily skilled chef/baker at home.
Some of the earliest text conversations are her telling me how she was making some blueberry cheesecake and Horlicks flavored ice-cream for Chinese New Year “because her mother-in-law liked it.” Hardcore and a good daughter-in-law, what more could you ask for?
As our whatsapping progressed she divulged that she has her own version of french onion soup, packs a gourmet lunch for herself and her husband almost every day and that she’s a walking encyclopedia of cooking information. If I needed a recipe or a way to do something, there were PZ recommended variations or solutions. She’s a 21st century Martha, no airs and graces and ready to draw on her resources for a good meal. This includes real-life cook books, the Internet and her vast experience (which includes on-going friendly culinary competitions with her Mom who also cooks scarily well).
Knowing her made me realize that I wasn’t the shit in the kitchen. But not in a bad way. She just made me realize, some people were made for cooking and some people were made for communicating. So I decided to communicate how she cooks.
This is what I’m hoping will be a new series featuring people in Singapore who cook and who are generally inspirational.
When I mentioned this idea to PZ, she was all for it. She also decided to take it as an opportunity to “school” me and get me to like kale. Kale, the one health superfood I can’t get into. It’s like grass. But tougher. And possibly grosser.
SO. PZ says she will make (while I help and observe) a chorizo-kale-stew thing.
On the appointed day, PZ came over, all business. She wanted to know where the spices were AND she had brought an entire container of homemade ice-cream dotted with chocolate bits for dessert. If she wasn’t already married, I would have been first in line to woo her.
Did PZ live up to how good I thought she was? Well, let’s just say she had no hesitation in taking charge of the kitchen. And her knife skills? I mean I know how to chop things but compared to her I’m like a blind man with three fingers. Can you say EVEN.
The stew was all sausages, beans, dried spices and chicken stock. It was hearty, warm and very satisfying.
PZ confidently breezed through all the cooking, with minimal help from me, except towards the end of cooking when we tasted the stew and it was just flat.
But what do you do? I would have just let it go, eaten the flat stew and lamented about how I was never cooking that again!
PZ tasted it. Hmmed and haaed. Asked me for my opinion. Declared it needed some oomph – in the form of red wine vinegar.
It did the trick, gave dimension to the stew which we enjoyed with a loaf of crusty sourdough bread from Marche and a glorious Sauvignon Blanc from who knows where.
It was a fantastic lunch and an even better experience.
PZ had made me realize, that you should never accept a bad outcome. Instead, you should always try and fix it.
It might work or it might not.
But it could mean the difference between being good or being great.
*This may also be the genesis of my friendship with you. But don’t worry, we are both benefiting from the relationship. I promise.
**My flatmate Hoi is the photographer for these beautiful pictures, which is what happens when you decide to stick around and eat the lunch. There’s no such thing as a free one, people.
*** I still don’t like kale.