Before I met Barbara I had only experienced Dutch cooking. My mother always cooked, we as boys didn't have to do any household work. My mothers' cooking was very traditional Dutch. Normally it would be potatoes, vegetables and meat with gravy. I never had courgettes or aubergines and I didn't know what to do with a sweet pepper. Most of my friends were the worst cooks of all. They only ate out of tins or out of packets. It was either baked beans in tomato sauce, ravioli in tomato sauce or spaghetti in tomato sauce, all out of tins. Mostly with toast, sometimes with chips. Common was also chips on toast. The mashed potatoes, desserts and soup came out of packets mixed with hot water. Sometimes we had Chinese take away, sweet and sour pork and fried rice. Barbara complained about that 'the English only want to eat sweet and sour pork!'
Barbara introduced me to a whole new world of taste. I am together with my family are still grateful for that, as I do the cooking at home and thereby I still use the advices Barbara gave me.
Barbara taught me to combine ingredients without using a recipe. Just by mixing the right taste together. She introduced me to spices I didn't know existed. Like, oyster sauce, black beans, star anise, ginger. She combined ingredients that startled my mother. My mother still talks in amazement of the moment that Barbara put lettuce or egg in the soup. I learned to use vegetables like sweet pepers, onions, garlic. I also learned new ways of cooking like frying or steaming. Till then I didn't know what a rice cooker was, but all our Chinese friends had one.
Barbara took me to the Chinese restaurants in London, and showed me the difference between the restaurant that was specialized in not Chinese customers and the ones were only the Chinese came. I remember going to a restaurant where a Chinese young ladies in traditional costumes walked round pushing trolleys from which you take whatever you wanted to eat. Barbara didn't always feel comfortable in the restaurants where only Chinese came. The waiters refused to talk English, the menu was only in Chinese and sometime remarks were made about Barbara being with a foreign boy.
Barbara taught me how to eat with chop sticks. She told me that her own chop sticks manners were not very good, because she held them half way. Barbara new a lot about Chinese food (her stepfather was a cook) and she could really enjoy eating. She ate lots of little portions and only the nice bits. For example she would eat the inside of a pancake and leave the rest. I had brought up with the manner that I always had to eat everything that was on my plate. Completely different from what Barbara did. She often left a mess behind.
Barbara didn't like cooking herself. Sometimes she made a meal for my family or for our friends. Then she would come with amazing names for the dishes, like thousand year egg (which seems pretty old eggs to me) or fried/steamed bird nest. I don't know if that were the real names or she was just having me on, sometimes I just didn't know with Barbara.
Barbara and I were used to solving our own problems as both of us didn't have adults around who could help. This also meant that we both did our household work like cleaning, washing, mending clothes and cooking. At the moments we were together we didn't expect the other person to take over these tasks. We both did our bit. It suprises me that even nowadays still with many young couples the woman has to do al the housekeeping and the man does nothing (and the woman accepts this). But if Barbara ever had married, her husband would be very disappointed is he expected Barbara to prepare for him every day a meal and also do the household work for him. I think Barbara would give him the choice either get used to the English canned food (which Barbara also ate) or learn to cook himself. Barbara didn't see herself as a housewife slaving every day to keep the house clean and the cook for the family.
在我遇到Barbara之前，我只了解荷兰烹饪。我妈妈总是自己做饭， 我们男孩子们不需要做任何家务活。妈妈做的是非常传统的荷兰菜。通常是土豆，蔬菜和配调味肉汁的肉类。我从来没吃过小胡瓜或紫茄子。 我也不知道怎么做红辣椒。我的朋友们多数不会做饭。 他们只吃罐头和包装袋里的即食食物。 基本是番茄沙司烤豆，番茄沙司小方饺，或是番茄沙司通心粉。和烤肉一起吃，有时配上薯条。最常吃的是烤肉加薯条。袋装的土豆泥，甜点和汤泡上热水。有时我们叫中餐外卖。糖醋猪肉和炒饭。Barbara常抱怨，"英国人就知道吃糖醋肉"。
Barbara教我根据菜谱把各种佐料混合，把合适的味道混在一起。她让我认识了一些我闻所未闻的香料：蚝油，豆豉，八角茴香，姜。她混合的食材会吓着我妈妈。到现在她还会说起看到Barbara把生菜或鸡蛋放进汤里时的惊异感觉。 我学会了使用甜椒，洋葱和大蒜， 还学会了蒸和炒这些新的烹饪方法。之前我从不知道什么是电饭煲，尽管我们的中国朋友都有一个。
Barbara教我如何用筷子。她告诉我她的筷子也拿得不好，因为她握得太靠中间了。 Barbara知道很多中国食物（她的继父曾经是厨师），她也很喜欢吃东西。她吃很多样东西，每样都吃一点，只吃好吃的部分。比如她只吃馅饼的馅，剩下的都不吃。 我从小就被教育要把自己盘子里的东西吃完。 这和Barbara的习惯完全不同。她常常会剩下一堆东西。
Barbara自己不喜欢做饭。 有时她会我的家人或朋友做饭。她总有一些奇怪名字的菜肴，比如皮蛋（看起来就是又老又皮）， 蒸燕窝。 我不知道这些是真的菜名还是她逗我玩的。有时候我弄不懂她。
因为我们的家人都不在身边，Barbara和我习惯自己问题自己解决。我们两个人都会分担家务活，打扫卫生，洗衣服，叠衣服，做饭。我们在一起的时候，我们也不期望另一半包办这些工作。我们两个都分担一些。我总觉得奇怪， 直到今天许多年轻伴侣中还是女方包办所有的家务，男方什么也不做的情况（女方也接受这种安排）。如果Barbara的未来老公指望她每天做饭和包办所有家务， 他恐怕会有麻烦了。我认为Barbara会给他两个选择：吃罐装英国食物或者学着自己做饭。Barbara不觉得自己会成为一个在家里打扫房子，做饭给一家人吃的家庭主妇。
(thanks to Natalie for the translation)
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