"Er, what do you call this fish?" I looked at the dish on the table.
"Terubuk," replied Husband.
"You haven't eaten it before?"
"Well, actually I've never eaten it."
In my Chinese family, when it comes to food, we eat the best we can afford. Mother and Grandma bought only selected fish for the table. Never mind if we don't have any new clothes or new curtains, for food is the number one importance in my Chinese family. Therefore some fish that are cooked by the Malays are alien to me. I don't know their names or how they are supposed to be cooked. And I always scratch my head when they're bought for the home.
Mother used to say that unlike Chinese, Malays spend more on looking good than on eating well. "They can get on with just plain rice and dried fish."
I don't know how true it is nowadays.
"How do you want me to cut these vegetables?"
" Just cut them."
I need to ask each time I help out at the kitchen. Chinese cook differently and prepare ingredients differently. I used more garlic and less shallots compared to Malays. I chop my garlic differently. My soups differ from the Malay's version, depending whether they're to cool the body or to add more heat. And my desserts or tong-sui are alien to a typical Malay.
Cooking is always an adventure. I won't know how my dishes will taste when I cook them because the ingredients used now are slightly different. I'm still getting used to the new taste of the soy sauce produced by Muslim factories. Really, they do taste different, so my dishes always end up tasting rather different than what they used to be during my non-halal days.
And Husband becomes my QC, heheheee... and he has been quite cautious testing my "alien dishes".
Cultural clashes happens all the time, worse when it involves other family members.
"You shouldn't sit at that table."
"He doesn't like being stared at when he eats."
"But I wasn't staring at him. I was watching the tv and talking to your sister. The sofa was too low and uncomfortable to sit. And I had my aurat properly covered too."
"Still it's better that you sit elsewhere."
"Ok, fine. If he felt uncomfortable, why didn't he tell me straight away? That would have solved the problem immediately. Need he keep quiet only to complain to you a week later?"
"That's not how it's done. It's a cultural thing."
"Fine, I'll remember that. Speaking of culture, do know that in Chinese families, we sit together at the table until everyone has finished their food. It's a form of respect that nobody leaves the table until everyone finishes eating. If the main table's full, children and teenagers, being lesser in status, eat elsewhere."
Then it was his turn to feel it.
"I wanted to salam with your mother but she just left the car."
"I've never salam with your Chinese mom-in-law. She'd freak out if I were to kiss her hand the way I do to your parents."
"Well, I thought I'd give it a try but she didn't give me the chance."
"So what did you do then?"
"I just waved at her and said goodbye laa... western style."
And it was my turn to laugh...hahahaa