A new year is upon us.
And there have been a few changes around here.
TheHiatusBlog is now Perfecting Asam Pedas.
Why the change?
Because my life has moved in a slightly different direction. The hiatus has been extended. Basel will be our home for another two years. And as a result, I have had to leave my job permanently. I was on unpaid leave over the past two years, you see, and because my absence will turn out to be longer than initially expected, I had no choice but to tender my resignation. So effective yesterday, 1 January 2014, I have been officially and unequivocally unemployed.
This marks a new phase in my life. My association with my former employers began 18 years ago – way back in 1996 – when I began studying for my A-Levels under their scholarship. Five years and a university degree later, I started working for them – for ten years.
And now, almost two decades later, I bid adieu to the organisation that has, to a significant extent, defined my life for a good 18 years. That’s a sizeable chunk of my life. Of the 35 years I have been alive, more than half was with this organisation.
Do I feel sad at all? Surprisingly, I don’t. I have no regrets either way – having worked for them or having to leave. My fellow A-Level and university scholars, and the colleagues whom I befriended, are still in my close circle of friends. Despite the gripes I’ve had throughout the years, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. The unique position of the organisation has meant that what I learnt there can never be gained anywhere else in the industry, and has in part, shaped my views on how economics, finance, businesses – and even politics – should function within society.
So no, I have no regrets, and no pangs of sadness either. This is how the world works, and we just have to roll with it. I’ve always believed in clouds with silver linings, and this is hardly a cloud to begin with. This is more a time for me to consider different options, rediscover old interests, pursue new ones, or just experiment.
Life, for me, is now in transition.
Why Perfecting Asam Pedas?
Since moving here, household management and learning how to cook have been sehr wichtig. And one of the dishes that I often cook is masak asam pedas, a favourite of The Mister and of mine growing up. Despite being a relatively fuss-free dish and having cooked it several times, I haven’t quite perfected it. I can never get it to the perfect consistency, and the asam component is never quite to my taste. And like a lot of traditional Malay dishes, there are no exact recipes – it’s all about experience; knowing how the sauteed chilli should look and smell, being able to roughly gauge how many shallots to blend with how many dried chillies – which all depends on the type of chilli and shallots you buy – and knowing how large a lump of tamarind paste you’d need.
Semuanya agak-agak. You have to eyeball the amounts.
And that skill comes only with experience and loads of practice. Which is, in a way, a lot like life. There are no exact recipes – sometimes you just have to trust your instincts. Instincts that have been honed by experience. When I buy a new pack of dried chillies from the Asian supermarket here, I have no idea how hot they are and how many shallots I need to balance it. I just have to throw some in and then adjust the quantities along the way. In the same way, when life takes a different turn, you just have to roll with it. Experiment and try new things, perhaps. Sometimes you just have to have faith that what you do now will eventually lead to what you want, or what you never thought would suit you.
So Perfecting Asam Pedas describes both literally and metaphorically this phase of my life; my attempts in the kitchen to perfect a well-loved dish, and my attempts in life to make the best of what opportunities I have.
And what a perfect way to start the new year.
Happy new year everyone, and may 2014 bring with it health and peace, and more of what the world needs, and less of what will feed our greed.