From Pot to Plate

By: Melle Hsing

If you give me rice, I’ll eat today; if you teach me how to grow rice, I’ll eat everyday.”

- Mahatma Gandhi

I suddenly realized that I wouldn’t need to go to the supermarket to buy basils, that I could access an unlimited supply of fresh basil leaves right from my balcony. You could say that I felt empowered over this obvious realisation, as it was the first time I had intentionally made the decision to grow my own food. 


Over the next couple of weeks, I grew attached to my budding seedlings, was saddened by the soul-crushing realisation that I was actually growing small tufts of weeds instead of basils for three weeks, planted some more basil seeds, saw the small basil leaves finally emerged, and pruned some of the fresh ones for cooking. The resulting basil omelette tasted not only of flavour, but of hard work as well. My mother also started to grow green beans and pineapple plants herself after seeing the greenery that populated our small balcony, and we now eat our home-grown vegetables every week while continuing to grow more basil plants in new pots. 


From a small hobby to a profound lifestyle change, from pot to plate, this whole journey which started off from the small decision to grow a part of what I cook is a tribute to the farmers who have been growing the food we eat everyday, to those who make the food accessible to us, and to mother nature for providing us with her abundance of edible resources in the first place. 


It is time to give back, starting from a humble pot of soil and a handful of seeds today.

In light of the global COVID-19 pandemic in Hong Kong, I’ve been cooking up a sweet storm in the kitchen: plates of glutinous rice balls, peanut mochis, coconut and mango sticky rice, banana pancakes… that was, until I got tired of cooking on the sweet side. Yet when it comes to savoury dishes, cooking always seems so complicated. I would always miss a step or two in the recipe book, stir-fry the onions for too long, and of all things, the seasoning. But being quarantined at home was a fair enough reason to get me considering cooking savoury dishes again. A month prior to quarantine, I had started a bit of gardening after reading an inspiring book on growing herbs for medicinal uses. Motivated by the growth potential of my small garden and the first attempt at cooking a not-so-bad savoury lentil curry, I decided to do something even more adventurous: growing my own herbs for cooking.


Spoiler alert: it was not easy. 


Before even growing the herbs, I needed to find the right pot, get the right equipment, and of course, choose the right kind of herb to grow. After much thought, I settled on the good-old basil since I could use it to make basil omelette (a.k.a 九层塔煎蛋)and pesto sauce! 


As I filled my rectangular pot with fluffy rich brown soil, I noticed a sense of peacefulness settling in my gut --- there was just something so therapeutic and zen about planting seeds while also taking in the balcony view of the ocean, crooked mountains, and passing clouds. As I proudly looked upon my first pot of basil seeds, it seemed to fit the nostalgic view perfectly.