There are so many “trade secrets” that we are keeping from preying eyes of non crew members. The story of this humble hot stove is just one amongst dozens more of our little secrets.
This little electrical “hot stove” has helped thousand of flight crew. It is very efficient, compact and almost fault proof.
I do not know where is my Sanyo Cooker. The last time I used it when there was no cooking gas at home and needed to make myself a bowl of nice Maggi mee.
For almost 5 years now, when I was promoted to be a so-called Leading Steward on Boeing 737, I was happily “divorced” my ever loyal companion; the Sanyo Cooker. It has no longer plays an important role in my career because (MH crew members could understand this easily) I do not have to cook in hotel room anymore. Boeing 737s fly only within Malaysia and some regional destinations. Thus, I do not need this cooker any longer.
The charges for the local hotels’ room service are cheaper and the most important thing is, the food is halal.
THIS is the forte of Wide Body or International Flight Crew including some pilots ( Most don’t bother because their salaries are large enough to feed an orphanage. They do not have to lead a frugal life like us cabin crew)
For international flight crew of our national carrier, Sanyo Cooker has indirectly helped them buying houses, cars, kid’s educations, their Pradas and Louis Vuittons. Without this little hot pan, it is almost impossible for crew members to survive on their monthly income alone. Some may accuse me for being exaggerating but let have a fun reading without any malice shall we?
Oh yeah…before I go further, the airline reminded their crew many times and too often urging us not cook in hotel rooms. When it became too often, the warning waned off without even been read and delete button pressed immediately. Cooking in the room still thriving. The cooking activity is not condone by our employer, it is highly forbidden.
The term cooking is not literally means that we cook like a chef at home or restaurant. It is more like “re-heat” up frozen cooked meal. The size of this cooker is quite similar to 5 CD’s cases stacked up together.
Let me elaborate how the whole process of this cooking is done:-
1. The cooked food are deep frozen at home. They are the last to go into the crew’s bag before leaving home for flight. On board, after initial cabin checking and preparations have been done, the crew would then gather the dry ice taken from meal carts and pack them with the frozen food. ” Yang…nak dry ice tak?” literally means ” Darling, wanna dry ice or not?” huhuhu! That is the usual question the galley steward would ask his fellow crew members. For the bosses (in flight purser ) they would simply ask direct question whether or not that we have an extra dry ice or they helped themselves in the galley. For those with an inflated ego would rather done secretly. Simply, we do not dare to offer any dry ice to them (they are the eyes and ears for the company) because cooking in the room is against company’s regulations. When one takes the dry ice, everyone knows what is in his bag.Yes, in flight purser did it too. So, we let them drop the bombshell and we would happily oblige for any assistance they may require from us.NO further question asked. Everybody knows the rule.
2. Depending of the destinations. Most destinations nowadays forbid bringing any food item into their countries. The cooking activity has somehow dwindle a bit I guess. At the hotel, upon checking into the room, first thing crew would do is to unpack the frozen food and place them into the mini freezer. The irony is, most hotels in European countries do not provide mini freezer in the room. Ever so smart, the ingenuity of crew..they would do thing and think out of the box. They would slightly ajar the window and hang their frozen food outside. The natural cold weather during winter would keep the food fresh. How about during summer? hmmm…placing them into bucket of ice. Yeah..i forgot to mention on how did we pack the frozen food. The cooked food would be placed in a clear thick plastic bag, remove excess air in the bag and tightly secured with a rubber band. The menu are extensive. We have fried rice, fish curry, lamb masala and all sort of Malaysians dishes that we can find on our typical dining tables. Sambal belacan of course on the menu too. All are nicely frozen and it can easily weighted up to 3 or 5 kilograms worth of fresh food. The longer the flight trips is…the more foodstuff go into the bag.
3. The cooking
Usually, it is done after crew had their nice well deserve sleep at the hotel. It used to be a communal activity amongst crew members. We would gather in one of the crew members’ room and ration our food portions. Each crew will bring something to the “kitchen” cum dining room. Before they even leave their own rooms to the “kitchen”, there are things each crew should bring along; Sanyo Cooker, raw or uncooked rice, a spatula, plastic plates, their own frozen food and drink which usually taken down from the aircraft. We called this “offloading” but the company calls this “stealing”.
During the cooking process, each seems to know their roles. Such as:
– Open up all windows even in the mid of winter to allow fresh air into the room because the smell from cooking might alert hotel’s security.
– Wet towel to be placed at the crack under the door to avoid smell lingers out through it. The whiff of sweat aroma of Nasi Goreng Belacan being re-fried in the pot could easily kills an army of fully grown European men.
– Hot water streaming at the basin to thaw the frozen food. Packed frozen food whilst still tightly in plastic bags are now submerged into and under the running of hot water. One person would keep an eye to see the progress of this thawing process. Usually the seniors took this job because they seem to know when the food is ready to be reheated on the hot pan aka the infamous Sanyo Cooker. If the food is not fully thawed, the inner part remain frozen even after heating had been completed.
– Since, everyone has their own cooker, the process can be expedited. One or two pots would be use to cook rice (steamed rice), and the rest of the pots would be used to reheat all the dishes.
– Some crew members will get the “dining table” ready by placing newspapers on the floor. Placing all, now hot dishes in the middle, scooping steamed rice, pouring juice and making jokes with each other. It was merrier during “buka puasa” or on special occasion.
Now, the Makan or the feast begins. It was a very nice ambient and portrayal of strong bonding and brotherhood amongst us cabin crew regardless of race and religion. Forget some misdemeanor activities that involved in this cooking process because what we did was out of necessity.Currently, they are thousands of crew members on night away trips scattered all over the world and probably cooking now by using this cooker is simply to survive. With our “gaji” or salary, survival in foreign lands is a mammoth task. Yes we can afford to dine at cafe in London or Paris BUT our wallets would left empty by the end of the trip. Who would then, pay our bills, to put food on our tables back at home, to buy clothes, children and elderly parents to support, to enjoy little bit shopping, who?
Sanyo Cooker is our savior!
Thank you Sanyo for your magical cooker!