Photo: C.K. Koay
1. You don’t cut your nails after dark.
As a child you were strictly informed not to cut your nails when it was dark, and when you asked why, you didn’t really get an answer. Your mum is an expert on what brings bad luck and she took superstition to a new level. Were your nails too long to play badminton the following morning in school? Too bad, the sun had already gone down. Also, you have never had anything to do with the number 14 in your life.
2. You’ve never been encouraged to become an artist.
A good Chinese Malaysian child picks a career that makes money, and we all know (especially your mum) that artists don’t. She encouraged you to become an engineer at the age of ten even though you loathed math. Years later when you decided you wanted to be a journalist, she pushed hard for financial news and tried to use her contacts to get you into Bloomberg.
3. There was always an abundance of food in your house.
There has never been a moment of your life that you’ve heard your stomach growl. Your Chinese Malaysian mum force fed you a minimum of three proper meals (fried rice, char kway teow, chicken rice, Hokkien mee) a day and at least three snacks (roti, crackers, Penang rojak, or oyster omelette) in between. The fridge, freezer, pantry, kitchen table, and cupboards were always filled with pak choy, kai lan, coriander, prawn crackers, Milo, Polo, dried mushrooms, egg noodles, thick rice noodles, and bee hoon.
4. You always carry around tissues.
You always have a package of Kleenex (or two. Or three) in the pocket of your jacket or in your handbag. Your mum always brought one out when your nose was dripping after eating that steamy Penang laksa or your eyes were tearing after having devoured a plate of sambal udang. As the good Chinese Malaysian child you are, you have loyally carried on the tissue tradition.
5. You prefer rice congee (porridge) on Saturday mornings to pancakes and scrambled eggs.
You don’t really get the American breakfast thing. On weekends your treat was delicious — a bit thicker than soup — rice porridge served with kidney (if you were lucky) or liver (if you were less lucky). It was steamy, warm and everything you wished for having to get out of bed on the weekends.
6. You’re completely immune to the smell of durian.
Your mother loves this spikey green fruit — one of the very few things food adventurer Andrew Zimmern can’t stand — and at a very young age you learned not to mind it reeking of old cheese and socks in the house. Banned on subways and airplanes due to its offensive smell, your mother happily brought it home whenever she could and let the smell linger in the walls of the house. You actually don’t really understand what the fuss is about. You would even go so far as to say that the yellow stringy meat is delicious and doesn’t actually smell bad.