For some reason I’ve always enjoyed doing repetitive, mundane tasks. They provide a sense of peacefulness and contentment in seeing the results of my efforts. My mind quiets down and I get to enjoy a sense of oneness with my task.
When I was in tenth grade, my summer job was to put bra sliders into bra straps. My mother worked for a garment factory, and every day she would bring home huge bags of bra straps and bra sliders. Like a machine, I spent every single day of that summer putting sliders into straps. I didn’t get bored at all. In fact, I even found great joy in doing that. I didn’t have to think much, and I was content with the accomplishment, which was piles and piles of nice and neat straps in front of my eyes.
Now I find similar joy in kitchen tasks. I like peeling garlic bunches. I peel them clove by clove with my nails, and it makes me happy to see a small bowl full of white, clean garlic cloves. This morning I bought a pound of river shrimp, the kind that is as small as my pinky nail. I picked and trimmed the head and tail of every single one of them. I didn’t get bored. I didn’t get impatient. It relaxed me, like meditation does.
Today I also finely chopped a big chunk of pork by myself instead of buying ready-minced pork. Maybe it’s just me, but the pork that I hand chop at home tastes different from one that comes out of a meat grinder. Or maybe I get tired and more hungry after chopping with a big cleaver and that’s why everything just tastes so good.
The butternut squash soup I made today is nothing fancy. It’s not something that you would usually see in restaurant menus or cooking shows. But I still want to write about simple, home-cooked dishes like this because they’re part of my daily Vietnamese life and an aspect of Vietnamese cuisine that many Vietnamese people experience at home and don’t tend to write about.
I didn’t make a video, because there’s not much complicated about this dish, just simple flavors and ingredients coming together beautifully. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to post it below. I’d love to hear your thoughts and I hope you enjoyed a sneak peak into a representative example of my daily home cooking!
Butter or cooking oil: 2 tablespoons
Minced shallot: 2 tablespoons
Salt and pepper: to taste
Minced pork: 1/2 pound
Water: 4 cups
Butternut squash: 1, around 1 pound (cut into cubes)
A few sprigs of herbs (cilantro, basil, or culantro/saw-leaf), finely chopped.
Over medium heat, heat butter, add minced shallot and stir until fragrant.
Add minced pork. Add salt and pepper. Stir for about 1 minute.
Add water and bring to a boil. Skim the broth until clear.
Add butternut squash and reduce heat to low. Cook until the squash becomes soft.
Remove from heat. Add chopped herbs.