31 July 2011

…Or Eating In - Part 1 還是屋企煮-上卷


New Yorkers often joke about keeping their sweaters in the oven because they never cook. Hong Kongers would have loved to do the same, if only we had the space for an oven. The lack of a proper kitchen and the ease of dining out have made home cooking a vanishing art in the city. At times it seems like no one around us – other than those penny pinching, foldable cart pushing see lai (師奶; middle-aged housewives) – bothers to prepare a home cooked meal any more.

Two see lai grocery shopping at the wet markets


Cooking is time consuming. Considering that most worker bees get home just before the 9:30 soap opera starts, banging and clanging in the kitchen is the last thing on their minds. From buying groceries to all that washing, chopping, frying and steaming, the whole production is guaranteed to take up the entire evening...


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Read the rest of this article in No City for Slow Men, published by Blacksmith Books, available at major bookstores in in Hong Kong and at Blacksmith Books.


13 July 2011

Maid in Hong Kong - Part 2 女傭在港-下卷

When Loretta left the Philippines in the 1980s, she didn’t have any training in cooking or housekeeping. What she did have was an eight-year-old son she had to feed back in Quezon City.

Loretta got pregnant when she was 17 and soon thereafter her boyfriend disappeared. Left with no other choice, the single mother – a title she carried in her hometown for eight years like a scarlet letter – turned her child over to his grandmother and headed to Hong Kong in 1983.

Chinese live-in maids back in the days with their signature cues



In the past 30 years, she has served twelve local Chinese families across the city. The Chans, the Wongs and the Leungs – Loretta has seen it all. For a quarter of a century, she cleaned their apartments, ate in their kitchen and listened to the radio by herself in the maid’s quarter. Most of her employers treated her well enough, though none of them ever considered her one of their own. Not once have they invited her to eat with them, watch television with them, or simply have a chat with them. Loretta has heard that back in the day those Chinese maids with their braided queues – “amah” (媽姐) as they were called – often became their employers’ best friends and confidants. When it comes to Filipinas, however...

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Read the rest of this article in No City for Slow Men, published by Blacksmith Books, available at major bookstores in in Hong Kong and at Blacksmith Books.