The New Year Food Resolution.

Like most people, I’ve fared pretty poorly with New Year resolutions. Maybe the crux of matter is that what I wanted to do lacked resolve (ironically). However, if I think about about resolutions that I’ve made pertaining to food, I have been rather successful.

When I was a younger, my parents would take me and my sister out hunting for Osechi-Ryori (traditional Japanese new year food) on the first day of the year. It is usually 1-3 boxes (jubako; stacked bento boxes) containing many different dishes that have special meanings. It’s almost as though if you had consumed these items, you’ll bless your year. For example: Prawns (海老) represent longevity  (because it looks like an old man with a beard and a bent back), Sea Bream (鯛) is part of a saying Medetai (めでたい) which means to be auspicious, and Black beans (kuro-mame 黒豆) mame means health, symbolising the wish for good health. When I grew older, I made a resolution to continue that tradition of hunting for Osechi-Ryori to have as the first meal of the year. It hadn’t been easy looking for a traditional Osechi set in a Japanese restaurant because it takes many days of work (and little who appreciate the efforts taken), cooking up to 40 different dishes. Lucky for me, Shiraishi at Ritz Carlton Hotel has been the place I have been going to for the the last few years to enjoy the traditional Osechi. The staff disclosed that they start preparing these dishes on the 26th of December till the 31st of December (of every year). This year, they made a total of 28 dishes that was arranged in the box, after which an O-zoni soup (red carrot, grilled mochi, broccolini, duck and  think skating of radish with gold leaf flakes) was served and the meal ended with a single mikan.

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Before I left for Melbourne to pursue my higher education, I didn’t eat any cheese. I didn’t like the texture or the taste of them. I liken goat’s cheese to be the worst of its kind. It tasted like as though I licked a public toilet. That pungent and “damp” stench combined with the strange salty flavour was just too much for me. Being a foodie, I couldn’t deny that I was ashamed of myself. I should eat everything (at least once) and be willing to try anything. So I made a resolution in 2000, to eat at least 3 kinds of cheese every time I saw a cheese spread at a buffet. I wouldn’t go out and buy them but if they are already part of a buffet spread, I felt complied to at least try. After 2 years of forcing myself to do that, I learned to appreciate cheese better. My current favourite is an aged 30 month parmigiana reggiano especially in my pasta. It has such a complex flavour. I love it freshly shaven like a layer of snow covering my dish in a shroud of aromatic savoury nutty flavour. One of my new favourites was discovered during a trip to Perth last year, Le Delice aux Truffes. A rich triple cream cheese with a dense layer of black truffles in the centre.  The one I had in Perth upon some research hails from Burgundy and is made with milk that is enriched with creme fraiche then filled with a mixture of mascarpone and black truffles. The “sweetness” of the cream together with the  aroma of black truffles is magical. My best friend and I together with her husband love this spread over crackers. We’ve been very fortunate this Christmas to get a little wheel of it from my cousin Stephen and Lydia who bought me one and brought it to Singapore (from Perth).

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My first fruitcake with a brandy glaze. (2009)
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Vanilla on Vanilla cupcakes  (2010)
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My Fruitcake with a white marina and fondant layer. Background are more dried fruits getting hydrated in cognac. (Dec 2016)
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My Vanilla on Vanilla cupcake (Dec 2016)

In 2009 after receiving a light blue Kitchenaid tilt head stand mixer as a gift from my husband a few months earlier, I was determined to learn to bake. So I decided that my new year resolution for 2009 was to bake something every week. I had lots of kitchen mishaps; cakes that didn’t rise, problems with turning the cake out of the tin, collapsing buttercream, chocolate seizures, and the list goes on. Despite all that failure, I received encouragement from my husband and I kept trying (and troubleshooting). Fortunately for him and my friends that had to eat my weekly disasters, within 2 years, I improved greatly from when I first started. The rest was (all part of MilkBar’s) history. My experiences inspired me to adopt the philosophy that food in small batches, made not using short cuts, with quality ingredients and using traditional methods are superior. Nowadays I don’t bake on a weekly basis like before to experiment or troubleshoot but I believe that there is always room for improvement. So I continuously read recipes, watch youtube videos (for technique) and keep trying to fine tune my craft by pushing myself to try new recipes or methods.

So now that it’s the start of 2017, my new year food resolution is to reduce waste in my kitchen. Did you know that food waste produces 4 times more greenhouse gases than aviation? So this year, I must plan my meals better to utilise as much of the grocery that I’ve bought especially with vegetables (that is bought in bulk) so that I wouldn’t need to waste anything. Wish me luck.

Wishing everyone a blessed year ahead and conviction in your resolutions.

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