Two weeks into the waitressing job and I am starting to get the hang of it! So far I have not dropped any steaming hot dishes or spilled an armful of empty plates onto anyone’s lap. Which is a relief, considering I have the graceful coordination of a pregnant hippo in a tutu, judging by previous history.
I have never, when I think about it, been particularly agile. I dance like a newly minted zombie, embarrassed at being showed up by the more experienced brain-eating peers. And when it came to sports, it is no accident I did better in tug-of-war or anything to do with strength. The few times I had the opportunity to do martial arts, I usually sat on people.
Writing, expressing the stories in my head, was one of few things that allowed me to be ‘powerful’. To imagine characters as swift and as kickass as I wanted, to be brave and indomitable and defiant against the pressures that should crush the ordinary man or woman.
I think that’s when I fell in love with writing. There are few thrills more exciting than letting your mind wander free, building the world however you wish, deciding whom your characters should fall in love with and why, watching them take a life of their own as they argue and plot and murder and redeem someone…or themselves.
It occurs to me that being employed means you allow yourself to come under the power of another person. Depending on your tolerance and need for cash, you take and follow orders which can range from reasonable to downright demeaning.
You want me to what?
So far I am enjoying my time in the restaurant, which is run by a Chinese family. I like chatting with the diners, helping out with the web-related stuff, and don’t even mind answering the staff’s curious questions about my life, my actual goals, and typically from the ladies, my age and whether I have a boyfriend.
I might be generalising, but it’s like there’s some kind of inborn gene that requires a Chinese auntie of a certain age to ask if you have been grafted by the hip to a male yet. It’s kinda amusing actually.
And then the Auntie hands me another whopper. She asks if I wanted to help out in the kitchen sometime. Not only that, she asks if I could cook Lo Mein.
I thought I heard wrongly the first time the Auntie asked me in Chinese on the phone to “cook Lo Mein”. The first time I told my mum I might be cooking, she cackled. My own mother. Cackling.
Okay, granted other than my landlady Rosie, I have never cooked a meal for anyone before. I only started two years ago, when the absence of cheap food in the UK forced me into the kitchen for survival’s sake. Yes, I never knew how to cook until recently. Food in Malaysia was inexpensive and plentiful, so why bother learning?
Oh boy did I learn fast in Scotland. And then to my utter surprise, I began enjoying it. Following recipes. Trying out my own. Experimenting with what works and what doesn’t. If you had told me two years ago I’d be baking and burning my hands on ovens and buying honest-to-god recipe books, I’d have laughed my arse off at you.
I became fairly decent at Italian and Japanese – two of my favourite cuisine.
But Chinese food? I’ve eaten it all my life, but rarely found opportunity to cook it!
Oh lord, what if diners suddenly gasp at their throats after taking one bite of my cooking? What if they all keel over, Lady Gaga Telephone-style?
Sure, I’ve fed myself without any problems, but this is taking into account I have a cast iron stomach and have survived eating week-old chicken rice broth left on the stove (how was I supposed to know that red stuff forming on the top might be dangerous?) Most people would rush to the hospital. I just felt vaguely uncomfortable and took a few pills for an upset stomach…
Oh lord. *Ponders an insurance policy for bad cooking.*