Sunday, March 11, 2007

Asian Mothers and Daughters, In the Kitchen.

"Your mother is in your bones!"
- Amy Tan, The Joy Luck Club

This morning, I watched the delightful Australian chef Kylie Kwong on the the Discovery Home Channel. Kylie is fourth-generation Chinese.

This morning’s episode of Simply Magic was entitled A Chinese Family: Mothers and Daughters.

Mum stepped in to Kylie’s kitchen, and I’m telling you – the exchange was déjà vu for just about every Asian daughter.

As she toasted sesame seeds to toss in a pickled celery salad, Kylie said if her Mum ever gave her "a certain look," she’d be reduced to the size of a sesame seed, in seconds. Asian daughters everywhere, I ask you, does this not resonate?

When offered a cup of tea. Mum promptly asked for a simpler vessel, saying the proffered cup was too special and she was afraid to break it. Asian daughters know that sentiment well, getting frustrated because Mother refuses to use the new sheets or tablecloth or blouse or china they sent, because it’s too special.

Daughters also know that competition and conflict with Mother can translate itself into culinary tasks with mother is in the kitchen, as Kylie demonstrated in a mashed potato challenge.

Mum made her mash the way most of us do, boiling potatoes, draining, mashing with the old trust masher and adding butter and milk. Just one pot to wash.

Kylie's method involved steaming potatoes (boiling makes the spuds absorb too much water, she said) for 35 minutes, then running them through her French mouli, (food mill). Next, she melted French butter, and heated milk. “Cold milk shocks the potatoes,” she said. Mum: “I didn’t know potatoes could be shocked.” Setting her mouli over the milk and butter, she turned the handle and the mashed potato fell into the creamy mix.

The judgement came from Mrs. Kwong’s granddaughter, Indy. In favor of Kylie. Then Indy slyly said, “Kylie, can I have my money now?”

Precious. If only all mother-daughter exchanges in the kitchen could be so innocuous!

Watch Kylie's show if you can. The dishes are simple, very healthy, traditional but with a modern Asia-Pacific twist, and gorgeous.

(L: Stir-fried King prawns)

I think you’ll really enjoy her warmth and self-effacing of humor. She's not corny, and doesn't show off. Apart from Ming Tsai and Martin Yan, I can’t think of any other Chinese chefs on TV. What a shame the Food Network can’t find any time in a whole week of oft-repeated shows to work in a measly half hour of Asian cooking.

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