When my good friend Chin offered me the opportunity to take over his private elementary school in the mid-90's, I thought he was out of his mind. My career as a chef had started becoming a local sensation in Hong Kong and I was finally living my dream. Of course, even though private schools are a profitable venture in our marvelous city, I was never into doing things strictly for finances. I had no experience with education and children, and to be honest, I did not see myself as a disciplinarian. Cooking was something I liked because it made others happy.
My wife, however, had a different opinion.
Owning a school in Hong Kong was not just a method of business, she said, but an honor. With such a limited amount of private schools and the upcoming handout of power from Britain to China in 1997, Hong Kong would need to provide a strong education foundation for its new generation of children. Chin had an understandable life situation where he could no longer look after the elementary school, so I apologized for withhelding his invitation and decided to give running his school a try.
And so, for a couple of years, I temporarily retired as a gourmet chef and became an elementary school principle.
For the first several weeks, my wife enjoyed the time at the school much more that I had. She loved the interaction between the children, because she was a natural with them. However, I did not enjoy such a feeling. Children were hesitant to approach me. I did not smile and they were afraid of my thick mustache. I yearned to go back to gourmet cooking where I felt useful and productive.
One day, as I was patrolling the hallways after the final school bell rang, I witnessed two boys pushing another boy. When they saw me approach, one of the bullying boys started to run away. I ordered him to stop and sternly lectured them. I gave them each a week of detention and called their parents. On the outside, I looked angry, but on the inside, I was shaking. Not even on my own daughter, had I tried much discipline. I was very clumsy on dealing with the assaulted boy, Wing, who was crying. As a youth, because I was well-liked, I was never bullied. So I could not say much words to comfort him.
Suddenly, I had an inspiration...we had an extra mango pudding left in my office. No doubt he has eaten many Chinese-styled mango, but it was the perfect timing that made Wing smile. Why did it make him smile? Because it made him forget. The mango pudding is a symbol of the present, it can be sweet when it makes you forget the past. Mango Pudding is a popular dim sum dessert and also in Chinese weddings. It is also eaten out of fun and enjoyed after any Chinese meal. For this article, I have chosen the Chinese Mango Pudding in honor of my dear little friend, Wing.
Let us begin the lesson...
1. PREPARING THE GELETIN AND MANGOS
- Packages of gelatin
In a bowl, stir the geletin powder with a 1/2 cup of water. Stir until they become one entity. This shouldn't take much effort and is very easy to do. Then, take the two mangos and cut them into little pieces, of course, minus the skin. If you are used to cutting mangos, you know what I am talking about.
2. BOIL THEM TOGETHER
- Half and half cream milk
- Mango juice
With a small pan filled with a 1/2 cup of water, put over a small flame to boil the water. Once the water is boiling, insert the sugar. Dissolve the sugar and add the geletin mix from Step 1 as well as the mango pieces. A few seconds later, include the mango juice and half and half milk. If you do it right, it should flow together very smoothly. Stir them all together while continously boiling. When they are together, you can turn off the fire and pour the contents into a bowl for refrigeration.
3. REFRIGERATING AND SERVING
From the boiled contents now in a new bowl, put the bowl into your refrigerator. Leave overnight with the top of the bowl covered in a plastic syran wrap. When you serve the next day, use a scoop and serve up to 5 seperate small cups. Slightly pour some condensed regular milk and add a cherry in the middle for presentation!
Years have passed and it was time for my wife and I to move on. We sold the school and enjoyed the memories we had with the schoolchildren. I had since learned to be comfortable with them and easily became the beloved Principal Mo. When Principal Mo became Chef Mo again, some of my former students came and found me. One day, a really large and muscular young man approached me and asked "Principal Mo! What happened to your thick mustache?"
Even though he was not the skinny child anymore, the eyes have not changed and the smile have not changed. "Wing! You are a big boy now! How are you?" I laughed. Wing informed me he was a fitness gym owner. He works on self-image and self-esteem. I asked him what was the best advice? "Think of the good things about today and tomorrow and let the past be the past. Remember the mango pudding you gave me in your office that day I got bullied?" asked Wang. I told him of course and in celebration, served him some mango pudding from my restaurant. The present, it turns out, is still sweet.