Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Sumi's Cooking

When Sumi began working for us, she cooked a lot of western food.  She made tasty spaghetti and surprisingly good chicken nuggets.  But after a few days, we noticed the packages in the garbage.  When Sumi cooked for us, she was buying frozen chicken nuggets, heating them up around 3:00 in the afternoon, wrapping them in plastic and them leaving them sit for us to eat at dinnertime.

This wasn't great.  I am not above feeding my children processed food, but I would prefer to throw it in the microwave myself, when it is time to eat.

So, we though, maybe she does not know how to prepare Western food.  No problem, because we know how to prepare Western food.  She should prepare Indonesian food.  We asked her to switch, and she made some fried noodles that the girls found too spicy.  The next day she made some fried rice, low on the spice.  The girls loved it - Dave and I thought it was bland.  The following day she made beef rendang, what wikipedia describes as a "West Sumatran caramelized beef curry."  We are one curry loving family, so it was a hit.  I was dismayed to learn the next day - it came out of a box.

So, Sumi doesn't cook, we decided.  We will be fine - I cook and Dave cooks.  Sumi preps and cleans.  And when we need a meal in a hurry, she can pull together something tasty from a jar or a box.

Fast forward to earlier this week.  Sumi had been chatting with another housekeeper in the building.  This other housekeeper receives money from her employer every day to go downstairs and buy food from the street vendors.  Sumi thought this was a great idea, and asked me for money as well.

Okay, I replied.  I'll talk to Dave about it tonight.  But why do you not just eat the food in our house?

I frequently invite her to share what I have, or to take advantage of anything in the fridge.  On every trip to the grocery, I ask if she needs anything.  I could not figure out what she had been eating for lunch.

She laughed.  She always laughs, which is so lovely.  She laughed and said that she needs rice.  Your bread is very delicious, missus.  But I have not eaten if I do not eat rice. 

me: What do you put on your rice, Sumi?

her: Just vegetables, very simple.  I bring it from home.

me: You have been bringing your lunch from home, Sumi?  Oh no - I am so sorry!  Would I like your lunch?

her: I think Missus no like my cooking.  I think my cooking has too many chiles.

It was my turn to laugh. 
me: I like chiles!  I want to try your cooking!

her:  Really?  I think you no like my cooking.  It is too spicy!

I made her an offer.  She cooks lunch tomorrow - whatever she would prepare for herself.  If I like it, she will fix me lunch every day.  If it is too spicy, I will give her money to buy her lunch from the street vendors.

This is what she made:

It was lovely.  Long beans and tempeh cooked with green chiles, ginger and lots of garlic.  Healthy and simple.  And I feel as though I have hit the jackpot.  Not only is my housekeeper fabulous at keeping my house clean and under control, but she cooks healthy, simple and delicious food.  She fixed some greens with tofu the next day.  Today she is fixing green mangoes in a traditional sauce, along with some greens.  I could eat lunch this way every day - and now that Sumi's cooking, I probably will!

No comments: