My heart



Semi-sweet and a little nutty. Lover of zesty lime-green and dangerous shades of red. Adores cats and music, big on all things bright and beautiful. Still a work in progress.

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Hello you who read this line! Have you had a smile today?

Keeping the Good Days in Sight

December 6, 2015

Sensory experiences leave lasting impressions on a country's culture, especially olfactory stimuli. Though many believe that a potpurri of exotic tastes dancing on one's palate is the ultimate adventure, I believe that simple sweetness can also weave marvelous tales. My sweet tooth has led me to many pleasant surprises, including the most epic of all, the Oil Fruit, which has a heart-warming meaning behind this smooth, chewy confectionary. 

Most people have never heard of oil fruit, including me a few years ago. It was near Chinese New Year in 2013, and I just entered Secondary 3. I had been sorted into another class as my best friend. The remaining thirty faces were unfamiliar and daunting. All of them seemed to know each other so well, cliques were already starting to form. Week two into school and yet, I was still friendless. It pains me a lot to sit at the canteen table with a cup full of milo as my only companion. Frustrated, I decided to grab a snack.  

 I was walking through the hall when Ah Ma came back from the grocery store and she cradled a large jar of thick, golden honey with three bags of powdery, snow-white flour into the kitchen. I asked what those were for, and was then enlightened about this traditional delight. Contrary to popular belief, oil fruits are not fruits. They are a kind of bite-sized, deep-fried, honey-centred cookie. Even before the cookies were ready, the flowery aroma would fill up one's nostrils. Oil fruits are crunchy on the outside but velvety on the inside. After the satisfying crunch breaks open the delicate crust, the honey drips out like a slow, gentle creek and gently bathes one's tastes buds. The grainy cookie texture is coated with the silky honey. Long after swallowing the treat, there will still be a sweet, fragrant lingering aftertaste, leaving one craving for more. 

Ah Ma got to work immediately. Pouring a steady stream of crystal-clear water into a translucent yellow basin, she then emptied the 3 bags of flour into the same container. Within a few skillful strides, a firm dough had formed. I offered to take over from there and wondered how Ah Ma, at 73 years old, could knead so gracefully when I was already drenched in sweat so quickly. 

"Back in the Song dynasty, oil fruits were a delicacy for the kids during Chinese New Year." Ah Ma said as she tilted the honey jar to let the viscous liquid crawl out and golden a once-transparent glass of water.

"Each bite was an enjoyable caramelised experience that crystallized into an equally sweetened memory. In their little hearts, these new-year snacks were the materialization of pleasure."

Ah Ma's story captivated me and I looked up from my kneading as her rhythmic stirring chimed the spoon against the glass. The melody staccatoed the air like little silver bells. The dough was smooth and hardened. Ah Ma's honey mix was ready too. She walked over to inspect the dough. With a contented smile, Ah Ma pinched off a small piece. She flattened it and enveloped a spoonful of honey mix within it. What followed next left me wonderstruck. With a few dexterous moves of her scissor-pinching, Ah Ma breathed life into the treat. It resembled the soft fronds of a lilac.

After that, I filled the wok with oil and it was bubbling merrily in no time, awaiting to welcome the first batch of oil-fruits-to-be. 

"Much like oil-fruits, we all have this "honey-core", which are our own special memories. When we are sad, we can visit them once in a while to bring back the lost smile on our faces. It keeps the good days in perspective, you know?" Ah Ma smiled as she dipped the "petal" into the batter which was a mixture of honey and flour. She released it into the oil and it floated up, swimming like an elated fish in the sea. Not long, it was fried an attractive ochre and a beautiful crimson swirl was seemingly embroidered on its surface. 

Ah Ma had noticed. Indeed, I haven't smiled for some time. Those facial muscles seemed a little foreign to control. 

Her words brought me to think about the wonderful times I had spent with my best friend. Every scene seemed to be so vivid, so candid, so perfect. Each one was like a streak of rose-pink or luminous yellow painted across the sky at dusk. They played like a movie in my mind, and my lips were pulled into a familiar smile. That smile had a sugary, burnt-out taste like freshly-harvested wild honey used in the best oil fruits. Syrupy, but not overwhelming. Maybe that was why the ancient North-western Chinese created the honey-core at the heart of the cookie. Maybe that was why in Chinese culture, sweetness was synonymous with bliss.

"But now, we have to learn how to embrace each day and live out the bliss of each moment, not forgetting to douse it with love." Ah Ma smiled, with a few drops of sunshine spalshing in her dimples. She dipped the cookie in the honey jar illuminated by the radiance of the afternoon sun, immersing it in liquid happiness before handing it to me. Sometimes, we need a few bad days to keep the good days in sight. 
Ah Ma: Grandma
心中像吃了蜜糖一样甜:Describes a person being very happy/feeling elated just like he or she had eaten honey.
In the story, the honey is diluted as my grandma likes her oil fruit blander. In actual oil fruits, the honey is not diluted. 

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