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This has been quite a long hiatus: more than two months since my last blog post. In the meantime I have been to Toronto and back, spending time and money on my career, which is that of a psychologist. I completed an externship in EFT(Emotionally Focused Therapy), a couples therapy modality with the originator, Dr Sue Johnson at Ryerson University in the busy hub of Toronto. Not that it took two months: in fact, I was away for about 12 days and the course itself, a very intensive four days. I stayed with my mom-in-law in Thornhill,  a predominantly Jewish suburb of Toronto, without my husband this time.

I wanted to blog about it at the time, but somehow did not, yet the memory stays: how I cooked a new dish, a recipe from my daughter-in-law’s blog in my mother-in-law’s kitchen. It has a certain ring to it!

Somehow, despite the fact that my youngest son married a British woman and she and her twin daughters were briefly part of my life before that ill-fated marriage fell apart, and despite my other son getting married two years ago, I simply had not felt like a mother-in-law until the moment that I stood in my mother-in-law’s (or MILlie as I fondly call her in our almost weekly emails) kitchen, following the recipe for Red Cooked Pork, directly from the blog of this wife of my oldest son.

She and my son have been living in Dayi in China, teaching English for almost a year now. In fact, they have just completed their first contract period, and are holidaying in Vietnam and soon Cambodia as I write here. She is also a foodie and amongst book reviews and travel writing, every now and then she shares a recipe.

This was my first attempt at this dish, which is delicious and very simple. In some strange co-incidence, I bought the pork belly at a big Chinese supermarket up the road from my MIL’s house. Thank goodness she is and adventurous eater, and not an observant Jew! The rest of the ingredients I found in her grocery cupboard: how many 89 year olds have sesame oil, three kinds of soy sauce, fresh garlic and ginger in their kitchens?

I have in the meantime also made it in my kitchen for a curious, and also non-observant Jewish husband. And just yesterday we set off to Cyrildene, the Chinatown of Johannesburg, to source ingredients for yet another pork dish my DIL published on her blog: Twice Cooked Pork. I had the page open on my phone screen, to show the Chinese woman behind the counter of one of the many supermarkets selling exclusively Chinese and South East Asian products: most of the labels in Mandarin or Thai. Rows and rows of bottled produce: pastes, sauces, vinegars, rice wine, even bottled baby squid and tiny little fish.

I loved walking through the pavements stacked high with vegetables: most of which are unfamiliar to my Western mind. A multitude of strange looking greens and root vegetables in boxes and crates, women bent over these picking out ingredients for a home cooked meal, sure and swift fingered, speaking lilting mandarin with one another. Old Chinese men sat smoking on the sidewalk: almost no western face in sight. For a moment I imagined what it may be like in China: the smells and sights and sounds completely foreign.

We decided to eat there, at a little restaurant with only Chinese patrons: the name of the place nowhere in sight. But the steaming, fragrant bowl of beef in chilli sauce was deeply satisfying. We slurped it down with a couple of glasses of cheap, chilled white wine from a bottle store three shops away, noses and eyes streaming soon, even though we requested the least amount of chillies from a very sympathetic waitress.

Walking back to the parked car, a stash of star anise, and ingredients for the new recipe I will cook soon, I made a mental note to be back here soon to get fresh fish and shellfish and clams and mussels and soft shell crabs for a next paella: across the road we walked past crates of fresh seafood. I even saw razor clams, and right next to them a plastic crate with whole ducks: webbed feet attached and heads too.

Of course I have tried my hand at Chinese stir fries and Thai curries, but the breadth and depth of these flavours and ingredients and dishes seem endless and exciting. Maybe I will even try my hand at Peking duck one day! A whole new world of cooking awaits.