New mum: a lot on my plate

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!

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Harvesting asparagus in Udon Thani

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The highlight of any trip to Udon Thani, Mr. P’s hometown, is the ability to taste freshly picked asparagus at its source. The family living beside the parents’ home runs an asparagus farm, so there is always an abundance of this vegetable during meal times.

This success of this family’s asparagus operation is founded on hard work and persistence, according to Mr. P. There was a wave of asparagus farming among the villagers a while back, but many had also failed and have since turned to plant other cash crops. Although Thailand’s climate makes it ideal to harvest asparagus year-round, this vegetable requires well-drained soil, which the dry, sandy soil in Isaan (northeastern Thailand) is not entirely suited for.

Mr. P’s mum works part-time as an asparagus picker, so she has to head out to the plantations at 6am. One morning, we popped by the farm to take a look at mum and other workers harvesting the spears. The fern-like plants looked particularly alluring with rainwater and dewdrops trapped among its wispy, feathery leaves. We wandered among the plots, peeked at asparagus tips poking through the soil and said hi to the other neighbours who were recruited to help with this operation.

When I saw mum walking towards us among the trenches, I quickly pointed the camera at her. How I love this shot of her (above) among the asparagus shrubs, with her twinkling eyes and warm smile!

More pictures of the asparagus harvesting process below.

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Food hoarding

This is my first time living through a possible flood (not that I really want to experience that). News of Thailand’s worst flood should have made its round around the globe by now. In the Thai capital, people have started stocking up on drinking water and dry food about two weeks ago when it appeared that the city was unlikely to escape the huge deluge of water flowing down from the north. We also started hoarding instant noodles and canned food at home, but just enough to last us for three days or so. We figure that it’s not worth being stranded at home if the water level rises beyond a critical level and the electricity and water supplies have to be cut. We’re now trying to use fresh produce as much as possible for our dinners while saving the canned stuff for a rainy day (no pun intended). So is Bangkok going to be inundated? And if yes, how long will it be? I guess no one can answer that correctly. Here’s a super cute video explaining the flood in Thailand, which I think is much more clearer and useful than what the authorities have said so far.