Cooking: Basics First

there is too much to learn


First-Time Filipino or Indonesian maid cannot be expected to understand the complexities of a cuisine that is totally foreign to them. The employer should be prepared to teach her new employee the basics of Chinese or Western cuisine and continue to supervise her efforts initially. If the employer is impatient, let a more patient family member teach the maid. Or enrol her in a cooking course.

Do not expect the cooking school to perform miracles. There is much to learn. To learn the local names of common spices or vegetables alone can be quite daunting. Our "chilli" is "chabe" to the Indonesian newcomer. Filipinos probably do not know what is "serai" (right) which is also known as lemon grass. It does not look like grass nor does it taste like lemon.

Our brinjal (left) which hardly looks like an egg, is an egg plant to some; to others eating lady's finger sounds cannibalistic. Our carrot cake contains not carrots but radish. What is the difference between long beans and string beans? By lime do we mean the green marble-sized sour fruit or something yellow or green the size of a golf ball or bigger, not spherical but pointed at both ends? How do you teach someone the local name of a vegetable without showing her the vegetable first?

How does one teach a novice cooking? This important task is difficult to accomplish if teacher and pupil do not speak the same language. If the teacher cannot communicate with the pupil in a common language, then the exercise can be frustrating for both.

How long will it take us to learn French cuisine from a French instructor who speaks no Mandarin, Malay or English? If a Singaporean woman were to decide to work as a maid in France how long will she take to learn to cook for a French family?

If you know a way to teach a first-time foreign maid to cook in a short time, please share your secrets with others who are still groping for a solution. Tell us about it.