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A Helping Hand: bilingual cookbook for domestic helpers

With the aim of seeing domestic helpers flourish at cooking Western food, Rowena Michaels has published A Helping Hand, the first cookbook in both English and Tagalog. A freelance writer and columnist with her own award-winning lifestyle blog, changmoh.com, this is Rowena’s first foray into publishing.

Rowena Michaels saw a need for a cookbook for domestic helpers
Rowena Michaels saw a need for a cookbook for domestic helpers

A Helping Hand is a useful hardback title packed full of tasty Western and Asian recipes in English, complete with a step-by-step Tagalog translation; the benefit for families who employ Filipino domestic help in places like Hong Kong and Singapore is obvious. According to Rowena, putting the book together has been a “crazy, eye-opening experience”.

Where did you get inspiration for this wonderful book? I speak French at a pretty proficient level, and a few years ago I was trying to cook from Cuisine du Monde while on holiday in France; there was a copy lying around in the house we had rented. It was extremely difficult to follow, and I found myself getting stuck with the cooking terminology. It came to me in a sudden flash how difficult it must sometimes be for our helpers to decipher cooking phrases such as “beat”, “blind bake”, “bind” and “blanch”, which, let’s face it, are neither helpful nor descriptive – even for native English speakers!

What did you hope to achieve? A lot of people living in Asia are fortunate enough to be looked after by hardworking helpers who can generally turn their hand to anything, be it childcare, cooking or cleaning. What I’ve written in the Tagalog introduction (which sits opposite the English one and which is aimed at helpers) is that I hope that this book becomes their friend, saves them time and helps to turn cooking into a creative and enjoyable process – not something tinged with confusion and potential misunderstanding. I believe that food cooked with care and confidence tastes so much better, too!

The recipes are presented in English and Tagalog for domestic helpers to use
The recipes are presented in English and Tagalog for domestic helpers to use

What can we expect inside the cookbook? I hope that A Helping Hand will help to promote household harmony and will be enjoyed by people from all walks of life, whether they’re busy working mums, expats, families who are familiar with Western classics, or perhaps families who want to know more about British cooking, from chicken pie to the perfect sponge cake. I do, of course, have some Asian dishes in there too – for example, there’s a cheat recipe for Mama’s Mee Goreng, which comes from my husband’s Nyonya (Straits-born Chinese) grandmother’s own handwritten cookbook that dates back to 1942! Lastly, I make a donation from each and every sale to HOME, the wonderful charity dedicated to upholding the rights of migrant workers in Singapore.

What has the authorial process and entrepreneurial experience taught you? That producing a book takes a lot of research, commitment, patience and time. I call this my third child! If you have an idea that no one else seems to have thought of and you spot that elusive gap in the market – go for it!

A Helping Hand cookbook is aimed at domestic helpers cook Western food
A Helping Hand cookbook is aimed at domestic helpers cook Western food

A Helping Hand: Delicious Recipes in English & Tagalog is available to purchase from blondemedia.asia (US$39).

This article first appeared in the Feb/Mar edition of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe to our regular newsletter to stay in the loop!

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