For me, cooking has always been about the sharing of food. It’s about the anticipation of sitting down together and having quality time to talk and share a meal. In so many ways I have always been surrounded by food. I am the daughter of Chinese cooking legend Elizabeth Chong and granddaughter to pioneering and dim-sim inventor William Wing Young.
Growing up, my favourite time of day was after school; that twilight zone between 4-6pm, between leaving school and coming home for dinner. My favourite place when I got home was the kitchen. The kitchen was where all the good stuff happened, it was where my siblings and I felt safe and secure, it was where mum was, it was where we shared stories and expressed our love and respect for each other. It was the lifeblood of our family.
All our meals would emerge from shared preparations. On weekends, when the gathering included extended family members; we would all participate in the building of a banquet. Washing the rice, cutting the vegetables, marinating the meat, setting the table, and most tantalising, pinching out the dumplings. These small tasks were both reassuring in their familiarity and exciting as hunger built and our anticipation grew. The meal was a bit like small pieces of a jigsaw coming together to form the complete picture. As we worked we transformed from individuals into an integral to the whole.
We were always conscious and mindful of each other and of sharing what was in front of us. None of this was prescribed, there were no rules or table manners. These exchanges of food were gestures of love and respect for one another. Later, I came to realise that the way we ate around the table was a kind of metaphor for understanding my place in the family. We each had our own bowl of rice yet shared in something much larger than ourselves.
Later, I designed Victoria’s first fully accredited Asian Cookery course at William Angliss Institute of TAFE where I taught for nearly 20 years. I also studied Horticulture and established a garden design and construction business. I designed and worked on some big and challenging jobs, including the palace gardens for the King of Lesotho, but thats a whole other story. My favourite work was designing small gardens for the home. I always found myself planting veggies and edible flowers in peoples front gardens. Today, I enjoy being able to grow and pick something from the garden for every workshop.