17 May 2011


“In my own little corner, in my own little chair, I can be whoever I want to be.” Cinderella sang that song about her favorite chair by the fireplace off the kitchen in one of my favorite childhood movies depicted with actual people, not the cartoon. I don’t know why that song came to me yesterday, but it did. I started to imagine how I got to take a little bit from the chefs in my life and modify their recipes to make wonderful breakfasts, lunches and dinners to make whatever I wanted to make. A lot of Rachael Ray, a little Bobby Flay, a little Emeril Lagasse – all inspirational to me when it comes to making kitchen creations. There seems to be just one thing standing in my way.

Have I mentioned lately how much I hate my stove/oven? We had someone take a look at the oven and confirm it was broken as I suspected. Since the oven has been fixed and I now understand how to use it – Celsius degrees and all – I have overcome my hatred and have begun to accept my tiny little oven. The stove, however, is still on my hate list. Saturday afternoon, I started to prepare a pork roast for dinner. Instead of baking it in the oven like the last time, I decided to cook it on the stove top in my ceramic Dutch oven. I lightly seared the outsides of the pork, seasoned it nicely and poured in half a bottle of apple juice, lowering the temperature on the gas burner to the lowest setting before closing the lid.

After some time had passed, I decided to take a peek at the pork to see how it was coming along. As I made my way to the kitchen, I started to be carried into the room by an unpleasant odor that only got stronger as I moved closer. When I met my dinner at the stove and took off the lid, my jaw dropped at the sight of bubbling tar surrounding the pork. I immediately grabbed an oven pan, rescued the pork and poured in some water before continuing to cook the pork in the oven. I have known that even the lowest gas setting on the large burner would boil water so I should have listened to Mr. Cricket inside my head telling me that I should have just put the thing in the oven in the first place. But alas, I wanted to use my pretty new present that had come to Singapore on a boat. So I sadly stared at my beautiful light blue ceramic Dutch oven and wondered what to do with the mess that oozed inside.

Since the pot was obviously very hot, I decided to be stupid and let the thing cool before picking it up and trying to clean the tar that eventually settled into concrete in the bottom of the pan. After three days of soaking, scrubbing, contemplating my cleaning plan, praying, quoting scripture to the mess inside the pan, reflecting on this tar that stuck so hard to the pot like sin on a person and thinking about how God was going to make the pot – like the person – clean with ease (and yes, it came off with ease on the third day), resting and scrubbing some more, the miracle occurred as it always does on the third day and my wonderful Dutch oven was saved and washed clean…except for a few minor smudges that I like to consider battle wounds for show and tell later. It was amazing. I have never in my life had so much joy doing the dishes, especially while cleaning a difficult-to-clean, caked-on, crusted pot.

The kitchen has become one of my favorite rooms in our tiny condo. I probably spend as much time in there as I do in bed. Inside the kitchen is a little room formally known to Singaporeans as the bomb shelter or maid’s room. To me and Paul, and anyone else who comes to visit, it is auspiciously known as Williams Sonoma. The 34-square-foot room has become partly storage for the few items and floor cleaning supplies we have, while boasting nearly all of my cooking and baking equipment on what used to be five bookshelves. The room is nearly perfect.

This morning I decided to take a break from the kitchen so I ventured outside for a walk along the beach to give myself a free pedicure and suntan. I prepped myself well with cheap flip flops, a spaghetti strap top to minimize tan lines and SFP 30 so I would not fry. Every inch of the park was covered with people as today was Vesak Day, one of Singapore’s national holidays. We have not yet learned what Vesak Day is or why it is celebrated here (we think it's Buddha's birthday but without Internet or native friends we are unable to confirm).

I watched with amazement as hundreds of bikers from toddlers to old men crammed together on the bike paths, the faster bicyclers weaving in and around the slower ones. I thought there were already too many people biking so I would not have even considered renting a bike for a little while. However, I am not a Singaporean. These people are used to a million people crammed into a single space like clowns in a Volkswagen.

Since I had gone right at the edge of the park a few times before, I decided to go left today and see what was toward the northeast. I found a pier, known here as a jetty, and walked all the way to the end, which was much farther than any pier on which I had been in my lifetime. Both sides of the jetty were lined with men and families hoping to catch the fish of the day, though I did not see a single arched line. The farther down the jetty I walked, the stronger the fish odor became, so I did not stay long once I arrived at the end. The number of ships in the water today was fewer than typical, so I could actually see a bit of land in the distance.

The air was hot but standing in the water made it seem much cooler. I walked along the beach in the water line for a while and, for a few minutes, I decided to just stand in one spot, dig my feet into the sand beneath and feel. I felt the cooling water rushing in and raising higher up my short legs. I felt my toes curling under in the sand to grasp the ground so as to not sway or lose my stance. I felt a bit of roughness amidst the soft sand and hoped that the bottoms of my feet were getting scrubbed in the process. It was a great feeling. The only thing better was the view – minus the ships in the way, the construction area on the beach and the shipyard on the edge of the downtown cityscape. The blue sky was amazing; the palm trees everywhere made it feel like paradise. I smiled for a while as it was made clear that I was living in paradise. 

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