Baby M popped into my life early last month, sending my life into a tailspin (hello interrupted sleep). And while I need to pander to the round-the-clock feeding habits of my newborn, as a new mother I also have the privilege of having nourishing food postpartum too, thanks to my mum who flew over to temporarily live with us for six weeks to cook meals for me and lend us a helping hand with the newest member in the family.
However, the Chinese saying that two
tigers tigresses cannot live on a mountain certainly rings true for us, so I have wisely relinquished the control of my kitchen to the full command of my mum, who promptly rearranged the cookware, cutlery, fridge and pantry according to her own system on her second day of arrival. My mum also specially brought over a HockHua confinement package, a convenient box of tonics and herbs packed into 28 plastic boxes for daily consumption over four weeks. Talk about managing the Chinese confinement period as bite-sized pieces! Every morning, I would awake to aromatic wafts of soup brewing in the slow cooker, all of which was lovingly prepared by my mum who had woken up earlier to bustle in the kitchen.
While I enjoyed consuming the different herbal concoctions and ginger water each day, the same sentiments couldn’t be translated to other traditional confinement beliefs and practices like not showering or washing one’s hair—in fact I broke all these cardinal rules. Yet because of the Chinese belief that a new mother needs plenty of rest and nourishment postpartum to restore her health and vitality, the first month after childbirth also offered me the chance to indulge in other rich food like pork ribs stewed in black vinegar (we opted for the leaner pork ribs instead of the fattier trotters)—a long-time favourite of mine as I relish sipping the sour and savoury flavours. Furthermore, once my breast milk kicked in several days after birthing M, I realised that my appetite also grew in tandem with the amount of sustenance I was giving to a new baby, all the more presenting valid reasons for the gluttony me to indulge in food, food and more food. To stimulate my milk supply, I started imbibing lactogenic food like oatmeal for breakfast and dishes such as green papaya soup and papaya boiled in milk. It is then a delight that Nanny N, whom we hired to look after M in the day and who lives in the same village as us, loves to share food with us. Upon learning that Mum and I both love naam phrik kapi (chilli dip made from fermented shrimp paste), she requested her 70-year-old mother to whip up a portion for us too. However, I had to stop myself from gobbling too much of the relish lest the spicy and pungent taste affects my milk supply, although I suspect such strong flavours would entice M as evidenced from the wide range of food I ate while she was in the womb.
Aside from the unbearably hot weather of Thailand with temperatures constantly hovering around the mid 30s, the confinement period—also known as “sitting the month” in Chinese—had otherwise been good to me. Despite being mainly confined at home (yes, I even left home for a few hours to attend a wedding), I had no shortage of yummy, satisfying food. However, the hard part would come when I have to feed myself, Mr. P and M when my mum leaves soon. Well, at least I get to regain control of my kitchen!