Occasionally, a client will get in touch with a project – often personal as opposed to commercial – that I just think would be fun to do, and deserves some support. Cheryl Noronha’s book based on recording her grandmother’s lifetime of intuitive and unwritten cooking is an excellent example. Great fun to edit Cheryl’s draft, tidying up her structuring and phrasing just a little with the aim of maintaining the authenticity and character of her written voice. Cookery book memoir edit and revision for author Cheryl Noronha.
I have written this book with the aim of capturing Nan’s unique recipes, which come from a time when food was considered a luxury, and to celebrate this amazing woman and all she has achieved. I have long felt that Nan’s dishes needed to be catalogued, so that her creations could be enjoyed by future generations of our family and shared with others longing for authentic, hearty and delicious Eurasian cuisine.
Nan and her four brothers and four sisters grew up in Singapore, but Singapore in the 1950s was a very different world from that which exists today. Having to earn money from the age of ten, Nan did not have the opportunity of a formal education.
- Co-creating a cookbook with someone who is not literate poses a unique set of challenges, but offers a humbling insight into how we recorded and shared recipes before cook-by-numbers guides like this.
- To convey Nan’s recipes in a way that could be followed, I watched her make the same dish many times over, recording and averaging out her timings until she was happy that a successful result would be achieved.
- In Nan’s world of agak agak cooking (a Malay word meaning approximations based on experience) ingredients are quantified by know-how (“a pinch” of this, or “some” of that). They have never previously needed to be measured.
Every recipe in this book resides in Nan’s head. Because she is unable to write them down, her 89-year-old memory is incredible. The recipes are also organic and ephemeral; they change over the years as fashions, palates and ingredients evolve and there is a playful element to recreating dishes slightly differently each time.
Put simply, the success of each dish depends on Nan’s palate. Enquiries as to “How much are you putting in?” for this book were met with patient if nonplussed answers of “Taste it and see for yourself!” – and so I pass this recommendation on to you.
Nan’s fearlessness in the kitchen comes from decades of experience and a grateful contingent of family, friends and neighbours who will easily forgive – although rarely without some comment – the occasional misstep.
The dishes in this book have changed not just down the generations, but over Nan’s lifetime. They are as much a snapshot of her culinary evolution as of that of Singapore’s Eurasians. However, each dish contains three ingredients not listed in the recipe: Nan’s experience, her wisdom, and her love.
- Take not simply the recipes, but also the spirit of Nan’s cooking with you. Learn by feel, by copious tasting, and by your own senses. Be confident and develop your own Gather your own boisterous contingent. Experiment, learn from the generations past… and eventually make the recipes your own. You will not go far wrong. Nan would not allow that.
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