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Keith Tse


  • Writer's pictureKeith Tse

Efficiency and quality: thoughts from cooking a bowl of rice

In my normal daily life, I usually cook myself a bowl of rice for dinner (I am, after all, Chinese). I am always so busy and rushed that I tend to turn the stove at its maximum and aim to have my rice cooked as quickly as possible. It works in that I get my rice cooked at maximum speed, but the rice I cook is not particularly good. It is so wet and soggy that I might as well drink porridge. However, I am not that fussed about food anyway. As long as it is reasonably edible, I am perfectly fine with it. Today, however, I have had a change of routine. I am at quite a loose end at the moment and I have recently been able to afford to boil my rice at a much more leisurely pace. It took longer, of course, but the rice I cooked was surprisingly good. The fact that I boiled my rice at a much lower heat meant that all the moisture was effectively dried off without affecting the texture of the rice. The rice I had tonight was so dry, so hard, and with so much texture that I had never been able to taste before. The quality of my dinner this evening was way superior to the ones that I had prepared in the past. I wish I could prepare more meals like this, even though tonight is probably a one-off as I cannot imagine myself having so much time on many occasions in the future, not with all my imminent deadlines piling up. Nonetheless, tonight’s meal has been a meal to remember.

When rice is cooked fast, its quality is poor, but when it is done slowly and thoroughly, its quality is much better. It sounds simple and obvious, but we may be able to implement this concept to our daily lives. What I have realise is this: in our busy lives, we often find ourselves obliged to get things done just to meet our deadlines, and we end up performing our tasks at a very high speed, which is a sign of efficiency. However, as we rush from one task to another, we perhaps do not realise that the quality of our work is compromised. If we take our time, however, and focus on one particular task at a time and do it thoroughly, we may be able to produce a masterpiece. Obviously this is practically impossible, which is probably why masterpieces don’t come by very often (and they would not be called masterpieces if they did), but when it comes to important tasks that deserve a lot of attention, setting other tasks aside and concentrating on one particular task in its minute detail may turn out to be very rewarding. I have a big project coming up in several months’ time. I am not yet feeling the pressure, but it is perhaps time to start early and do it thoroughly. I certainly would not want to rush into it and produce something that is less than what it deserves to be, namely a masterpiece. No doubt there will be many soggy meals of sub-par quality between now and then, but once I have submitted my project, I shall have the leisure to take my time and produce another super-bowl of rice. I much look forward to it.

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