My mother recently passed away. She has left behind not only scores of precious memories, but a legacy. Her legacy is her love of food and dozens of recipes to pass on, not only to me, but to my children and our extended family.
Born and brought up in a large family in Malaysia, my mother developed her skills at home, learning from her mother and older sisters, as well as taking in the rich culinary heritage that Malaysia has to offer. As a Air Hostess, she was able to travel the world before marrying my British father and setting up home initially in Manila, followed by a short sojourn in Jakarta, and then Singapore. She played the role of the expat housewife perfectly, hosting lavish dinners and parties with an air of calm and elegance. These events became legendary as our guests went back to their homes around the world as did the tales of Renny’s king prawns, curry lunches, fried rice, brandy snaps and even ‘dundee’ cake, amongst other dishes.
In 1984, we moved back to UK. Life was very different, but as versatile as my mother was, she built up a network of good friends, and continued to surprise and delight with her culinary skills. Acting on a friends recommendation, my mother decided to start teaching Asian cookery in Adult Education centres – Kingston, Merton and Wimbledon. Her repertoire started small – she couldn’t understand that people wanted to learn what she thought was every day food. As her classes and demonstrations became over subscribed, as did her ability to develop recipes spanning Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and India.We recently found these tried and tested recipes, nearly 300 in total, all typed out having originally been painstakingly handwritten by my mother.
I’ve thought about what I can do to keep this legacy, and essentially our heritage alive, and its through food… to not only cook using these recipes, but update, develop and recreate those flavours we grew up with.