Upbringing with food.

pain au chocolat #nalinepastry
“Inspiration exists.. but it has to find us working..” —pablo picasso

…The smell of bread occupied our home in the morning before I went to school…

// prologue //

In my hazy and dispersed memories, my sister and I lived a comfortable life without truly knowing what our parents had been through until much later..  In different times, we were raised predominantly by our mom, seeing that our dad was ceaselessly busy.  A six-year gap between us made us somewhat isolated.  My sister was the sweet and obedient girl, while I was the dark and rebellious one.  Considering remarkable characteristic differences, we rarely fought and surprisingly got along (a bit too well).  It’s just unfortunate that we haven’t really spent much time together as she and I took turn living abroad.  We used to keep in touch via letters before the internet’s prevalence.  Disturbing but true that oftentimes I feel like we were closer by those old-school paper-based mediums than by all the convenient technology that we now possess. 

// mother of the two //

What has always connected my sister and I is our shared upbringing…  The inimitable bond that we forged from our childhood memories was very much related to our mom and food.  Thankfully, my mom is one of the healthiest persons I’ve ever known.  She would refuse to dine in at any restaurant that is not clean or, otherwise, covered with dust under the the veil of pristine white tablecloth (if they ever use it at all).  As a restaurateur, she would observe their kitchens when she walked past with the excuse of borrowing the restroom.  With many years of experience in the kitchen (perhaps for more than half of her life), her chef’s character reveals itself from time to time.  Her sensitive eyes would pick up on the quality and ingredients that arrive in disguise on the plate in front of her.

Although the first impressions don’t always mean anything as most of them fall short of her expectations, she thinks it’s a foundation for potential.  I’ve always known that my mom has a high standard and good taste.  When things are seemingly controlled, she still spots a disorder.

She is one of the most difficult women to deal with.  She’s never tried to please anyone she doesn’t like.  She’s very hard to convince and rather headstrong.  Despite being straightforward, she has a kind heart and great negotiation skills.  Unlike many chefs (and not even talented ones), who seem to lose themselves in stress and raise their voice at coworkers, my mom has been an all-time professional, who is rational and handles her emotions well.

I honestly really don’t take in others’ opinions when they judge me or the things I do, unless they’re from the persons I care, especially my mother.

Thus, every so often.. I feel as if no matter what I do, I’ll never be good enough…

My mom is not the kind of person who would say the word ‘love’ out loud.  Still, I feel the vibration by a great number of little things she has done for me.  Things like.. reserving food for me when she cooks, worrying about my safety and future well being (and perhaps too much exercise), or tolerating my sense of rebellion. 

I didn’t know that being a mother isn’t so easy… 

Over time, through agonizing routines, I came to understand my mom’s concerns. Now I am grateful of having a strict mother, who has been hard on me.  So now a grown up version of her little girl is so tough and quietly cheerful in her own way.

// kid’s meals //

When I was little, my mom always prepped meals for me every morning.  Due to the traffic congestion in Bangkok (even in the old days, let alone the present condition!), I had breakfast in the car during our commute.  My mini set of breakfast consisted of equal amount of carbs (toasted bread), proteins (very soft poached egg), and fruits (sometimes in the form of juice).  My favourite one would be the pan fried bread with seasoned ingredients on top.  We had the bread with Thai sweet chilli vinaigrette made by mom or just ketchup. 

Now when I think about it, my sister and I were a bit overindulged in terms of food.  My parents have never been stingy with food.  However, soft drinks, candies, sweet beverages, and unhealthy snacks rarely or never made it to our house.  My mom inexhaustibly enticed us with colourful fruits, dry nuts and seeds, and fresh bread or pastries on the dining table, whereas cut and pitted fruits, milk, grab-and-go vegetables, and fresh juices were ready to eat in the fridge.  Having been brought up this way, I and my sister have been refrained from commercial carbonated drinks, chips, artificial snacks, brightly-coated sweets, or any kinds of candies. 

// a pursuit of laminated dough //

My childhood memories about breakfast had been associated with pastries.  We’re one of those Asian families who don’t eat rice in the morning.  The only time that we have rice for breakfast (porridge) is when we’re sick.  We’re Asian at its best!  :)

My mom has been fond of the light and airy texture like croissant and danish.  Her favourite would be the kind that is crisp, but soft inside.  Some croissants that have all soft touch at both exterior and interior or all crisp and dense texture wouldn’t satisfy her.  However, one of my beloved cousins has the opposite taste to my mom when it comes to pastries and cakes.  My cousin is wild about dense and rich cake.  People just can’t be treated the same way!

As I tried laminating croissant dough, never in my life have I known that the process of making croissant required quite the laborious skills and techniques…  and My mom is sophisticated…  One by one, after a few failed attempts and once burning the oven, I kinda gradually get it (I hope).  I really enjoy the process of laminating dough and playfully relates it to some sort of an abdominal exercise.

Butter started to shape better with a little help from pastry sheet.  Layers began to show without the breaking butter on the surface.  A stand mixer that I got as a birthday present has given birth to profoundly charming results of dough, which rarely have happened when I kneaded the mixture by hands.  I just love it so much!

Kneading and rolling dough require adequate levels of engagement and patience.  Every time I rush through the process, the result seems to reflect the effort. 

// epilogue //

There is no shortcut or easy way out..  I shall improve with the process..  as practice makes perfect after all..  

I’m not even halfway there yet, but I’m carrying your words with me everywhere.. Mr. Pablo..

croissant dough #nalinepastry

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