cooking up a storm


Why do we teach children to box themselves up? I saw on Facebook a photo a teacher shared – it was costumes of firemen, doctor, police, nurse, etc made for children. She said she could not wait to dress up the kindergarten kids in these costumes. I nearly puked on my screen. 5 year olds dressed in cute little uniforms. The thought makes me shudder.

The message we send to the children is to choose a profession, a job, a title, a career they would go into 20 years later. We teach them a subconscious lesson: to define themselves by what kind of work they would do.

At an age where their minds are most opened and malleable, we put a frame on their thoughts and give them limited choices – what would be the uniform for an entrepreneur, an artist, a designer, or a person who travels and experience the world?

is possible, the sky is your limit, dream big, you have choices… oh, the irony!

I had a sudden flashback as I scrolled through that Facebook photo (I wish there was an “unlike” button). In my high school, we did not rank students from 1 to 120. We only praised the one who did the best in each subject for every grade. Every year-end ceremony, that one little girl would get to walk up on stage in front of the whole school, parents, teachers, and dignitaries from the society and get presented a scroll that confirmed their excellence and hard work. It was an honour everyone envied, and usually there would be a few who monopolized the stage every year.

With no prior expectations, I walked up on stage for the first time when I was in Grade 9. I had won an honour scroll – for Cookery class. I felt like a clown. My classmates jeered. My teachers pretended they did not see me as I paraded in front of them. My mother shoved the piece of paper into a folder and put the folder into the crumpled bookshelf.

depression, recover from depression, how to get out of depression, suicide, international executive, expatriate life, self awareness, finding yourself, balanced life, overachiever and depression, burnt out cause depression, stress cause depression, prevent suicide

Cookery was not a revered subject. Compared to a Maths prize, Chinese prize, or English prize, it was nothing. My best subject was English – and every year my mother questioned why I did not get that prize. Every year I felt like a disappointment. And the year I received the Cookery prize I felt embarrassed and mocked instead of proud of my achievement. It was not good enough.

Naturally, I was not allowed to study Cookery in Grade 10 when it became an optional subject, and had to bury my head in Physics, Biology and Calculus – subjects that would give me an edge to becoming a doctor or engineer in the future, an invisible set of uniform hanging in my wardrobe since kindergarten.

The humiliation lifted an inch when I again walked up on stage in Grade 12 for Psychology, a more respectable subject as everybody else defined. Yet, I was still banned from studying Psychology in university. Being a lawyer would be more revered. I had to be in the best lot.

Never mind what I wanted and enjoyed.

Never mind no one knew who had the authority to define what was “best”.

For the next ten years, I branded myself as someone who could not cook, someone who did not even know how to make eggs or ramp up instant noodles. I thrived on ready-made cup noodles when I was working, or ate out. I had one pot at home, and one pair of chopsticks. I did not touch Psychology again and chose to read the Financial Times instead of an article about Freud and new breakthroughs in research.

I forgot what I loved. I lost the skills that were once natural to me. I abandoned the spurt of energy when I did what I was passionate about.

At 15 years of age then, I had no way of expressing what I felt, but I knew what it was. Sadly, adults put a frame on me even though they did not force me into a uniform costume. It took me another 15 years to finally realize this, and go back to where I started.

Depression brought it all back to me. It gave me a psychologist to talk to, and our sessions reminded me of the theories I studied back then. It gave me time to start beating eggs, flour and sugar together again. Enjoy the food I have whipped up in the last year alone below.

My silent reminder to myself, that when I have my own children, is to open their eyes to what is available in the world, guide them, and listen to their little voices of what they love and have a passion about, and nurture them. Little children know, they just do not know how to express it. The danger is as an adult, I would overpower their small voices. They can play dress up; I cannot judge how others teach and parent. But I can also let my own children know, that the world is more diverse than professions, and by no means should they be defined by what they do to generate income.

So if I want to cook, I will cook. If I want to write, I will write.

I do not need a uniform. No one does. You are good enough.

What boundaries do you have to shed today to do what you love once more?

depression, recover from depression, how to get out of depression, suicide, international executive, expatriate life, self awareness, finding yourself, balanced life, overachiever and depression, burnt out cause depression, stress cause depression, prevent suicide

23 Responses

  1. Black dog says:

    全部是你亲手煮的吗?好像好好吃 “)

  2. jim says:

    Well I can’t write in Chinese, but I can say thank you. You express exactly what I feel and how I would raise my children if I am ever lucky enough to have them. I remember feeling this way when I was a child.
    I wrote my last letter to my friends. I shopped for guns. But I am still here, because people like you care enough to write for the rest of us and bring light into our minds. Makes me feel selfish. From way over here in Houston, I thank you for what you do.

    • nochnoch says:

      Hi Jim

      I am glad I can help you express what is in your heart and mind. I hope you hold on. And one day see your children cook up a storm 🙂
      You are most welcomed from Beijing


  3. Nigel Chua says:

    Oh, what a hell of a writing – it’s something that really strike close to home to me, as I, being Asian as well, underwent this process too – everyone would ask me if I was going to study law, medicine or architecture.

    Anything else was greeted with a “oh.”

    And ended with that as well.

    It’s only as I grew older, as I went through lots of shit and this “framing” thing (yes, I experience it till today) that I admitted to myself that I hated that, quitted my job to start my own business and started living on my own terms.

    And I’ve never looked back.

    Cook if you want to, write how you want to, but bear in mind legality, ethicality and morality always =)

    You go girl!

    • nochnoch says:

      Hey Nigel

      So the world didn’t end haha, so we can keep cooking, writing, and doing what we love. It’s so cool to have a fellow asian relate to the experience, and glad we are both living on our own terms now!!! haha

      Hope your business is going well!
      Noch Noch

  4. Timmie says:

    What isnt clear is that all the amazing dishes in the photos are actually cooked by nochnoch. She cant help but being awesome at everything she does. I love u!

  5. […] tests out the chocolate biscuits, and hurries back to the Bear Room to write his review – maybe these biscuits can get 2 […]

  6. […] was more stressful than the act of cooking itself. However, for the past two years, I have had time to cook and clean up. I follow recipes books mainly, but the sense of satisfaction at having whipped up molten chocolate […]

  7. richardo mustachio says:

    I have so many fond memories of cooking as a child. Watching cooking shows with my grandmother, eyes wide in wonder, helping prep for dinner, salads, vinaigrette. It wasn’t until I started cooking for myself as an adult that I truly appreciated it though.

    I can remember my first sabayon, my first (edible) yellow Thai curry, or my first fried gnocchi with such vivid clarity, such pride. They were moments of pure, simple unadorned joy. My relatives may have had a particularly low view of me but the year my grandma used MY singularly unique and unpresedented recipe for mashed potatos

  8. richardo mustachio says:


    And revealed to them that it was I who made the recipe I managed to gain some kudos that year. Yeah, this boy can cook.

    Still, they all wanted me to be a doctor or something in my childhood anyway, so still second banana, really. Actually I’m probably in second to last place among the grandchildren.

    • nochnoch says:

      Hi Richardo

      Sorry for late replies. I havent been doing well these past few weeks. I read all your comments, thanks for your support all the time. How are you these days?

  9. richardo mustachio says:

    Down in the dumps. Fired rehired, hated the job, hated not working. Just cant win. Awaiting inspection from boss man all night long it’s weighing down on me. No mistakes. If I screw up it could ruin my stepfather’s business interest in this company. Everything is riding on this. He lost his other job and we’re all bunked up at my grandparent’s. Stress doesn’t cover it. Also, slipped back into bad drinking habits, need to fix my car, spend all my income on the gas to get to work and back. I’m in a worsening state of depression and anxiety, and I suddenly have zero clue as to my sexual preference. None. Its all too much. My step dad, grandparents coworker and essentially everyone I deal with daily are all adamantly conservative. (Anti gay). Business opportunities get ruined through drama and unethical practices. I have been looking for work behind the scene, I have no chance.

  10. […] After 6 weeks of hiatus, I am back. I do not know where the last 6 weeks went. I had no energy. I was tired. I could not sleep well. I had no motivation. At least I cooked and ate. […]

  11. […] I defined it. Moving to a smaller apartment, spending less on travel (or not travelling at all), cooking more at home instead of eating out etc, all looked like from the outside, a step […]

  12. […] Then I started to make a list in my head what I had done: I maintained my blog and wrote a few guest posts for blogger friends, I did my taichi almost everyday, I practiced calligraphy and meditation, I had a few new bears, I baked, I cooked… […]

  13. […] Then I started to make a list in my head what I had done: I maintained my blog and wrote a few guest posts for blogger friends, I did my taichi almost everyday, I practiced calligraphy and meditation, I had a few new bears, I baked, I cooked… […]

about Noch Noch

Enoch Li, (pen name: Noch Noch) was born and raised in Hong Kong and Australia. She has also studied / worked / lived in the US, France, UK, Japan, The Netherlands, China, and has travelled to more than 40 countries. She loves travelling and her curiosity in foreign cultures and languages has led her to enjoy her life as an international executive in the banking & finance industry. However, she was forced to take time off work in 2010 due to her illnesses and after spending time in recovery, cooking, practising Chinese calligraphy, reading and writing – in short, learning to take care of herself and letting out the residual work stress, she has transitioned into a Social Entrepreneur and founded BEARAPY to help corporates make workplaces mentally healthy, and support executives to become more resilient.