But, hey! Before I delve deeper into my thoughts, I’d like to let you know that I’m trying to catch up with all my fellow floggers and reply to all the comments and emails received. In the meantime, I’ve been plagued by migraine and hearing problem with my right ear. The latter pounced on me as a surprise, and I don’t know how it came about. As much as I try to stay positive, I’m worried. I just have that scary thought of having to live with an impaired eardrum for the rest of my life. I can’t bear to see this happening to myself right before I turn 23. *Sigh* Looking forward to my doctor’s appointment; I’m eager to learn about the reason behind. So, I hope you can empathize with me. I have to catch up with plenty of rest after work. I promise, I’ll keep myself updated with y’all. Here’s a big shout-out to all of you for the feedback and encouraging words I’ve gotten so far!
This post is a late Fathers’ Day tribute to the most important men of my life. If it weren’t for them, I can’t imagine how Pei-Lin would end up as today. It might still be a Pei-Lin, but it’s just not the Pei-Lin you’ve come to know of through this little journal.
I have two fathers. My very own dad has been my best friend since I first stepped into this world. Between these two buddies, of course, disagreement is inevitable. Beginning the age of 11 or 12, I’d have myself seated beside him, in front of our TV set, watching documentaries on the Chinese history and culture. Over the years, he let me discover that I actually bother to learn about the history and customs of different cultures. I discontinued this ritual when I entered college.
Nonetheless, the curiosity carries on; I gratify my nosiness through reading, cooking and baking different dishes. In fact, I’ve never been a science student; history, geography, English and Chinese are the papers I excelled at during my high school years. He’s a retired engineer, but I never inherit that “engineer gene” from him. Because he’s Chinese-illiterate, he ensured that I received 12 years of decent Chinese education so that I wouldn’t wind up like him. And, he bore the extra tuition fees solely for that. (I attended private Chinese school [馬來西亞華文獨立中學]. The free public education in Malaysia doesn’t recognize and offer comprehensive Chinese education. There, most of the subjects are taught in Bahasa Malaysia instead.) Even till now, this father-and-daughter team still admires the same politician, and it’s Lee Kuan Yew. (Every human isn’t born the same. So, please don’t come get us if you don’t share similar view.)
Lately, my dad has been questioning me, “What’d happen to you if I hadn’t granted your request of studying abroad?” Silence. Albeit feeling grateful, guilt and remorse would snatch me. He’d add, “What if I didn’t have the capability of fulfilling your dream?” Silence again. “Do you remember that unruly, demanding girl you once were?” (I still am, I think.)
All the self-reflection lately has made me realized that I’m very lucky. Throughout my college years, my dad never expected me to outperform academically. He’d feel content so long as I enjoyed a carefree college life. He makes me believe that my Le Cordon Bleu dream is alive, and that attending a pastry school at age 50 is never too late. I know I can never be able to repay him back fully, even with 40 years worth of salaries. Papa, thank you so much for the love, support and guidance you’ve been giving me. Thank you for letting me bake and cook up a storm every weekend. Thanks for lighting up my way as I wandered aimlessly over the years.
1988: Papa and little Pei-Lin. (Oh, no! The baby is salivating ...)
It’s just a matter of time when I’ll be flying across the Pacific Ocean, back to the friendly small town in north central Minnesota, to revisit my American dad and his family. The journey would take me 2 days by air. But it’s well worth the time, effort and money invested. I reminisce about those days I spent on Steve’s farm. I miss picking raspberries and currants with him. Some wild blackberries and gobs of sour cherries too, if we were lucky enough.
Amid the tall and prickly raspberry patch, I hesitated. But, the rubies in my hand were alluring. Steve hollered from the other side of the patch as he happily munched on his share of the berries – right off the bush, from his hand and into his mouth: “Eat ‘em! Boy, they are REALLY sweet!” All of a sudden, I forgot about the residing worm, bug and other "residents" within. As disgusting as it might sound, I stuffed a handful of the berries into my mouth. What a bliss! Sweet and juicy, burst full of flavor! That’s the fun part about berry picking, in a serene country far away from the city. Thanks for showing me the beauty of living a country life, Steve.
There isn’t a TV set at Steve’s. It’s filled with books instead. His family learns about other cultures by hooking up with international students like me. It’s all about the virtue of sharing. Just as they’re eager to share with us what the American culture is like, I’m just as excited to share mine! They’d opened me up to greater cultural diversity. His family had shown me how to share and love others. Steve, thank you for driving away that cold-heartedness in me.
(I do admit, though, I’m wary for fear of getting duped by others, especially when it’s so different in the culture I grew up in, where self-centeredness rules. Well, what to do?)
Back in May 2007. Steve working on his potato field, just before summer hit.
In Steve’s vocabulary, “boring,” “boredom,” “bored” are unheard of. He showed me that time is in our hands. It’s how we manage our time that makes the difference. These words woke me up from the misconception I once had. I’ve never complained about a boring life or that I’m bored since then. On the contrary, I think I’ve overloaded myself with too much that things are getting haywire. Time to negotiate and compromise. Haha! But, no worries. Steve, your teachings are safe with me.
Steve, with all the machinery and gadgets at his shop. He's the proud owner of a sharpening business. (I took this shot for one of my public relations assignments. Haha!)
There’re two things in common between the men of my life: nuts and simplicity. These two simple guys would go gaga over anything nutty. Both my dads are full-time nut nibblers. Peanuts, cashew nuts, Brazil nuts … and the list goes on. Hand them a bag of roasted nuts, they’ll be happy to do the honor for you.
Steve has a sweet tooth, which is typical of most American guys I’ve come to know of, while my own dad doesn’t, which is typical of most Chinese men I’ve come to know of. This difference bugged me initially. “Nah,” I thought to myself. “Let’s talk about peanut butter crisscrosses!” Heck, I myself have a sweet tooth anyway! Haha!
One of my first serious ventures into baking: flourless peanut butter crisscrosses. With just three ingredients -- or four, if you choose to add chocolate chips. Comes in an easy-to-remember formula. Recipe to follow at the bottom.
Can I call peanut butter America’s national food? My American family and friends would scoop heaped spoonfuls of peanut butter off from the jar. They’d then indulge themselves in the nutty gooeyness off from the spoon. Unsurprisingly, during my 3 years in the States, I acquired that habit too. Even now, I’d find myself licking peanut butter right off the spoon, without everyone else noticing.
(I was even taught that to cure hiccups, try eating peanut butter on its own. It’s that simple. Sounds like the sweetest and most pleasurable medication I’ve ever been prescribed to. Mmm …)
Peanut butter crisscrosses, an American classic, is Steve’s favorite. Whenever her daughter Keren bakes them, he’d help himself with a few pieces of the cookies – together with a glass of cold milk. For a simple guy like him, that’s a key to happiness. As for a savory person like my own dad, he still ate a few – simply because I baked these cookies. He then grumbled, “My blood-sugar level ...” (Ouch!)
Mind you, peanut butter crisscrosses are VERY sweet and downright nutty. For the sweet-toothed and peanut butter lovers alike, these cookies are soft and chewy. However, they have a tendency to fall apart in your hand if held too long. But, who cares! After all, for sweet snackers like Steve and I, these cookies are irresistible.
So, in a belated celebration of Father’s Day – and in anticipation of the Fourth of July, I adapted and made my peanut butter crisscrosses with a popular recipe from America’s most celebrated cookbook: “Betty Crocker Cookbook.” Keren, thanks for sharing the cookies and recipe with me!
Peanut Butter Crisscrosses
Adapted from "Betty Crocker Cookbook" (You can also retrieve the original recipe here, at BettyCrocker.com)
140 g all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
135 g dark brown sugar
80 g granulated sugar
113 g creamy peanut butter
57 g shortening
57 g unsalted butter -- softened
1 large egg -- at room temperature
Enough granulated sugar, for coating the cookies in
- Whisk (A) together, then sift once; set aside for use later.
- Cream (B) together till blended, then beat in the egg to incorporate.
- By hand, using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, blend the flour mixture into the creamed mixture till combined. Now, cover the cookie dough with cling wrap and refrigerate to chill till it's firm.
- Remove the dough from the fridge; divide and shape it into 1¼-inch balls. I always use a metal spoon, i.e. the regular type we use for eating, to scoop up the dough. Then, I'd quickly and gently roll the small portion of dough in between my palms to make it round.
Now, roll the ball of dough in granulated sugar to coat it and place on parchment-line baking sheet. Then, slightly flatten the dough by making a crisscross pattern atop with a fork.
- Repeat step #4 to the remaining dough. Leaving 3" in between the balls of cookie dough to allow for expansion.
- Bake at 190°C for 9~10 minutes or till the cookies turn light golden brown around the edges.
- Remove the cookies from the oven and let stand on the baking sheet(s) for 5 minutes.
- Transfer the cookies to cooling rack(s) and let cool completely. Serve and/or store in airtight container(s).
* Well, Steve would still eat them up WARM. It's gooey and just as yummy, ya know ... *
Flourless Peanut Butter Crisscrosses
* I don't remember the source of the recipe. I got and adapted it from my American mom's old cookbook. This recipe doesn't make a lot. *
1 cup (227 g) creamy or crunchy peanut butter
1 cup (225 g) granulated sugar
* DO NOT cut down on the sugar; otherwise, you may risk ruining your cookies. Sugar contributes to the structure of the cookies, too, since these are flourless. With that said, these monsters are going to be REALLY rich and sweet. *
1 large egg -- at room temperature
Enough room-temperature water -- for dipping the fork in
Enough granulated sugar -- for dipping the fork in
Enough semi-sweet/milk chocolate chips -- for topping, optional though
- Mix (C) together to incorporate well.
* I mix things up by hand, using a sturdy wooden spoon. *
- Divide by scooping the dough up by a teaspoonful for each cookie, and drop it onto parchment-lined baking sheet(s).
- Dip a fork in room-temperature water, then dip it in granulated sugar. Now, slightly flatten each of the dropped cookie dough by making a crisscross pattern atop. Whenever the fork starts sticking to the dough, dip it again first in water, then followed by sugar, and continue to flatten the dropped cookie dough slightly by making crisscross pattern atop.
Stick some chocolate chips atop the cookies, if desired.
- Bake at 180°C for 9~10 minutes or till the cookies look golden brown.
- Remove the cookies from the oven and let stand on the baking sheet(s) for 2~3 minutes; transfer to cooling rack(s) to let cool completely upon serving or storing.