I pulled the knife out of the container and the sharp metalic sound it made sent a sliver of anticipation down my spine. The blade caught the sunlight and reflected it in several directions. I saw that the blade had completed its rite of passage on the sharpening stone with my dad. Crisp sharpness was guaranteed. Good.
I set the knife aside on the chopping board and focused my attention on the huge Chinese cabbage in front of me. Motion kicked in. I peeled each leaf away methodically without stopping, then rinsed each leaf. I felt calm and peace course through my body, like the clean running water over the cabbage leaves. Now for my favourite task.
I laid one cabbage leaf on the chopping board, picked up the knife and began gliding the blade onto the leaf. The section of cabbage gave away easily. Oh, the joy of slicing! I became high. I was unstoppable. Section after section, the cabbage leaves were sliced evenly. Soon, there was a huge bowl of cut cabbage, waiting to be cooked in the steamboat. My favourite vegetable with one of my favourite cusines. What more could I ask for?
Insatiated, I looked around the kitchen and identified all the food waiting to be sliced. I gathered them together close to me, like a hoarder, and began preparing them to go under my knife. Item after item, I sliced them and arranged the slices in an (imagined) appealing way on the plates.
“Girl, do you want to take a break? You’ve been in the kitchen for 2 hours already.” My concerned mum asked. “No need, Mum. I’m fine.”
I was not going to give up having a task that called for mental focus and precision. I loved the contact with clean water. I loved that the slicing task gave me the perfect excuse to shut out the noisy world, and focus on a therapeutic action. Slice after slice, I attained the inner peace I desperately needed.
The short stints in the kitchem slicing away was for me, the best part of the ultra hectic, noisy and exhausting festive season that is the most important to Chinese.
Happy Lunar New Year to all! May the Year of the Horse brings much happiness and fulfillment!