Interviews: Cheryl (and pork and cabbage dumplings in soup to follow in next post)

DSC_1223This long overdue interview was with my friend Cheryl. I think she’s hilarious and dumplings are pretty high on my most favourite food list – so this was a fun interview. I should also add, on a totally unrelated note, that Cheryl makes the best cream puffs ever – she will have to do a post for me on these.

Where were you born / Where did you grow up?

I was  born and grew up in Pukekohe, which is a rural town in South Auckland, New Zealand. My dad is a market gardener, so our family home is on 10 acres of the best potato land.

What kind of food did you go up eating? Who cooked? Did you have any regular big family meals?

Mum did most of the cooking, so it was typically Chinese fare. Rather than your takeaway Chinese, where everything is inexplicably deep fried, covered in MSG or doused in sweet and sour sauce, Mum’s cooking was very fresh, with lots of broths, ginger, spring onions and of course rice and more obviously, potatoes. We had roasts maybe once a month, quite often when we were kids and dad would bring home a freshly killed lamb, from the impromptu barter system that Pukekohe farmers have with each other. More often, our big family meal would be a crazy Chinese banquet, with a broth made of pork bones and swede; Chinese roast chicken, marinated in ginger, cooking wine, garlic and mum’s other secret ingredients; roast potatoes in the chicken juice; broccoli -freshly cut – obviously; maybe some steamed tasty marinated pork; stir fried prawns or a steamed fish as well. It’s clearly not a Sue dinner unless more than two animals have made the ultimate sacrifice.

What were your favourite/ hated childhood meals?

Favourite – dumpling days were and still are, the best thing ever. Mum would commandeer the kitchen and there would be a military regime in force to get the dumplings made. The night before, mum would get the filling of pork and daikkon turnip ready, so it would be cool the next day. On dumpling day, the dough would be made out of bags of rice flour and corn starch. My job was adding oil or water to the mix while mum hand kneaded it. It then got rolled and flattened into palm size pieces and stuffed and carefully folded. Mum had this down pat, so my job would be to arrange them in the steamers. I had some really important jobs.

Apart from the making of the dumplings, the best part was eating them. Mum didn’t believe in portion control, so it was essentially a crazy dumpling buffet. Add some soya, hoisin sauce and chilli and it’s amazing. There comes a point where you’re full but you still have sauce in your bowl so you grab another couple to mop it up. Unfortunately, there’s not enough sauce for the dumplings you just grabbed, so you add more sauce and you’re back where you started, grabbing another dumpling to get rid of the excess sauce you just liberally poured.

Hated – For all the lovely broths, congee and chicken and sweetcorn soup that mum made, she also made a disgusting carrot soup, which we were forced to drink, because carrots help you see or whatever. As an adult, I wear glasses and don’t eat carrots. I’m happy.

What did school lunches consist of?

Lunch was standard. Fortunately, we didn’t have a rice thermos growing up, so lunch was white bread ham sandwiches, with a bag or twisties and a mini mars bar or a girl guide biscuit, when we were lucky. Friday was pie day.

Do you cook now? Do you enjoy it?

Yes and I love cooking. I don’t cook a lot of Chinese out of laziness and my insecurities about some of the ingredients at the Chinese grocer – they LOOk the same as mum’s but ARE they?