The Fried Carrot Cake Story

I decided to apply for medical leave and not go to work today. As much as the runny mucus has dried up in the body of my nose, I was can feel the wave of cough and pleghm rise up and down my chest through my respiratory system. So after I pulled myself out of bed, I headed downstairs to buy breakfast – and quickly settled upon fried carrot cake and a mug of coffee. Now as I dig into the packet of warm and tasty breakfast, my thoughts went back to two years ago when having breakfast with our beloved Reverend Lai was a rather frequent affair. He loved the fried carrot cake downstairs – cooked by the same uncle who prepared mine this morning.

carrot cake

You see, there are two fried carrot cake stalls that are both a (less than) five-minute walk away from our block. We would always buy from this particular stall instead of the other – not only because the cake was tastier, which made the dish more delicious, Reverend Lai also talked about how the uncle who prepared the dish would be dating the very wok of carrot cake he was frying – “谈恋爱” – that was the term Reverend Lai used. No matter how long the queue was, the uncle would never rush through each wok of carrot cake because he seemed to really enjoy what he was doing – serving up delicious, tasty carrot cake to his customers, who appreciated the dish for the same reasons. Today as I dig into my packet of fried carrot cake, I realised he had also sprinkled some green spring onion garnishing on it. That always make the dish better.

At times, other uncles may take over the cooking, but the carrot cakes they produced would never taste as nice. They always seemed to be in a rush to serve up the dish fast, or to meet the demands of the many customers. There was once or twice when my mum felt the brunt of one of the uncle’s attitude when he showed her the huge pack of spring onions that were yet to be chopped up, after my mum requested for some spring onion garnish. Other times, the amount of carrot cake would be inconsistent – at times too little, at times too generous. The carrot cake may be messily chopped up and thrown into a packet or on a plate before being dished out. The layer of fried egg that is suppose to envelope the fried carrot cake may be miserable, burnt or inconsistently poured over the dish. But the carrot cake I am eating right now has just the right amount of fried egg wrapped around two distinct layers of carrot cake, cooked to a beautiful shade of brown. Yummy.

We would always enjoy the fried carrot cake served up by this particular uncle because he knows how to dialogue with his food. It was more than just cooking or running a business, it was probably a craft, a skill that required a degree of craftsmanship and professionalism to get it right. He mastered every flick of the pan and every tilt of the wok with such grace and art, never rushing and compromising on the quality of the conversation because of pressure or the long line of customers waiting.

Do we also dialogue with the important things in our life? Or do we give in and cave under pressure and “just do it”?

Sometimes we have dinner conversations with family, and although we sit at the same table, the conversation grows stale. I suppose perhaps we expect a conversation to roll out on its own, but a quality conversation will never materialise if we do not put our heart out on the table and share and listen.

Sometimes we have too many KPI and targets to meet, that they just become penmanship on paper, and we forget the true meaning or value behind why those targets were there in the first place. When we teach, do we let other things get in the way? I need to feed my students with model essays because I need to meet this target. I will let my students do all their assignments in class instead of teaching them responsibility and self-management when they bring home work to complete, because that is the only way I can ensure they get a grade.

Do we converse enough with the things that matter to us? Or do we just do it to get by?

Some food for thought from some simple carrot cake this morning, hmm.

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