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Monday, 26 December 2016

67: Made with love..

Nearly a year ago, a gift of home made Australian pies to a friend who was a fan of these fist-size savory bites led to the surprising 'birth' of a little business. Whilst I had always loved cooking for friends we welcomed into our homes all over the world, never in my wildest dreams did I ever expect to be in a position where people would pay me to do what was a norm for me!  

However, of late, when some friends have proudly introduced me to third parties as an amazing chef, I have felt the need to correct them. But it is not out of false modesty but rather from the knowledge that I am not a chef - not by the longest stretch of anyone's imagination.  After all, a chef is someone who has undergone intense formal training - be it in a commercial kitchen or a formal institution. And I have done neither.  Perhaps I am more akin to a cook? But then, are we all not cooks?  Picking up a cook book written by a professional (or by some celebrity du jour) and then diligently following the recipe in the hope of replicating the picture perfect dishes that have been professionally photographed and Photo-shopped? No pressure!  But many of my peers are fantastic cooks.  In fact, I would suspect that perhaps that is the reason why some are loathe to place an order of pies from me because they see themselves as better cooks and feel slightly aggrieved that I have made a business (however small) of something I am not a 'professional' at.  And yet, what am I classically 'trained' in?  I guess after completing a double major in Public Relations and Journalism so many years ago, my training lies in the art of writing. And while I continually hone my 'craft' in an unpaid capacity until the day an editor sees my 'worth' so to speak, because of our constant moves around the world, I have had to create work and reinvent my 'profession' around my family.  From being a teacher's assistant and an actor in pantomimes in Hong Kong, to a jewelry and home goods importer in London, to running a small writing business in Singapore, to my current incarnation as a pie maker in the US. But I digress.

Truth be told, if I had to absolutely put a moniker on what I do, I would say I am what one would call a 'feeder'. Long before my current venture of making Australian savory pies for my customers in a little pocket in Connecticut, Matt, my kindest critic, constantly teased me about how I always felt the need to feed anyone who walked through our threshold.  No matter where we are, dinner parties are never small as I always end up inviting the entire 'street' as opposed to just one or two couples. Workmen and tradesmen who come to the house are inundated with offers of whatever I may be cooking at the time and cups of coffee or juice.. pies.. cookies... You get the picture. I like to feed people. 

And so, with every single pie I make, I cook as if I have invited each and every single pie customer into my home and am making them a meal. Every recipe I come up with and tweak. Every ingredient I use.  I am constantly on high alert on how to improve.  I am an expert at NOT following a recipe diligently but am instead led by my instincts and what I see, touch and smell - oh and a compulsion to extract maximum flavor without an excessive reliance on salt, sugar, cheese and oils.  Oh, and I use just about all my senses when I cook: I can hear if the egg whites I am beating for my soufflĂ© pies have reached a stage of readiness.  I rarely (actually never) use a timer to ascertain if my pies are ready to be taken out of the oven - I can smell the aroma of my crust reaching a certain 'crescendo' which then prompts me to peek into the oven to check if my pies have reached that certain golden hue of perfection. That is what I do.  On the Fridays that I bake. Where every pie is made with love from a hankering to fill bellies and make mouths water.

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