Jade + 6: The Taste of Tradition — Food is a Family Affair

My husband and I have a relationship that can be described as symbiotic because he loves to cook and I love to eat. A biologist might describe this as an example of mutualism, where both parties benefit, although I am certain when the poor fellow has to make me supper after I return late from work he might object that it is a form of parasitism. Clearly, I would be unable to defend myself with robust argument, as a lady never speaks with her mouth full.


You may have heard an unkind rumour that I am the only grown-up at home who isn’t allowed in the kitchen. This isn’t strictly true: I am permitted to briefly poke my nose in to snap photographs before being unceremoniously pushed out, amid flapping kitchen towels, spitting oil and the billowing fragrance of simmering spices. The flappers of these towels are the main cooks in the house, namely, my husband and my maids. They speak a kitchen language that I cannot understand while they boil, broil, slice and dice away.

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Family recipes and culinary skills are handed down with love. Before M1 first went to boarding school three years ago, my husband asked him to make a list of his favourite local food, which included char kway teow, laksa and chicken rice and proceeded to teach him how to prepare these dishes.

Jade’s husband Emil with M4.

When Ms 2 and 3 come home for summer break, they can be found singing to Taylor Swift while they knead dough to make bread and cookies. The attrition rate of chocolate candy for said cookies is fairly high on account of Ms 4 and 5 being helpful kitchen assistants, with candy entering mouths and mixing bowls in perfectly equal proportions. No mean mathematical feat! M4 himself has evolved into an accomplished cook, having understudied his father in the art of making pork-shoulder sausages, char siew and stuffed turkey. When my mahjong squad comes over for a game, you can count on him to make us a tasty omelette. He certainly is his father’s son.

Ms 2, 3 and 4 in the kitchen.

Fortunately M5 has some of my recessive genes, for while she has no real interest in cooking, she sure enjoys a good feast.

M5 enjoying her food.

I wonder what M6 will grow up to be like. Perhaps he too will be fluent in kitchen language and fry fillets in skillets or rinse coriander in a colander. Or perhaps he will be a discerning gourmet like M5 who appreciates a wide spectrum of traditional good food, from hawker treats such as hokkien mee to French fare such as duck confit. And just maybe he will grow up with an inexplicable need to document memories in photographs and chronicle stories surrounding these, just like his mother.


Dr Jade Kua ProfileThis is the second in a series of columns by Dr Jade Kua (left), documenting her life with her legendary six Ms. The paediatric emergency specialist is also the programme director of DARE which stands for Dispatcher Assisted first REsponder. It is a community project that aims to educate the general public on how to save the lives of cardiac arrest victims by teaching them basic resuscitation. Follow her on Instagram @drjadekua.

To read her previous column, Jade + 6: The Tiong Bahru Tales, click here

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