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.

Message from Writer

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

Keeping the Good Days in Sight

December 12, 2015

We all have had days when the tulmultuous, gray nimbus clouds engulfed our sunshine, making daylight become a simulacrum of the night. The torrents and sonourous thunder would come crashing down shortly after, drenching every cell in one's body, sending us quivering from fear and chill. And that was when we would desire for a warm embrace from the sun, something we might have taken for granted. Sometimes, we need a few rainy days to keep the good days in sight. This is a cherished lesson I have learnt from making oil-fruits with my grandmother during Chinese New Year in 2013, when I thought my whole year was going to be flooded with rainy days. 

Then, I had just entered Secondary 3 (Grade 9). I had been sorted into another class as my best friend, Ashley, and was surrounded by thirty daunting and unfamiliar faces, with cliques already beginning to form. Imagine the embarrassment and pain when, at Week 2 in school, a cup of milo was my only friend. I was in the comfort of my room, but the lonely thoughts were made me crestfallen. Frustrated, I got up to grab a snack in the kitchen.

 I was walking through the hall when Ah Ma (grandmother) came back from the grocery store. Her curly ebony-colored bob made her look deceivingly young. Her mellow, almond-shaped eyes were glistening with joy. She cradled a large jar of thick, golden honey with three bags of 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. 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 was 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 presses, a firm dough had formed. I offered to take over from there. Instead of a soft, playdoh consistency I was expecting, it felt more like hardening clay. I could feel my biceps complaining everytime I kneaded the beige-coloured dough. I marveled at how my 73-year-old Ah Ma could do so with such grace.

"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 loved telling me stories, and this was the most interesting one yet. I would normally smile and eagerly listen on for more. But today, the smile was lost.  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 amiably as she dipped the "petal" into the marbled 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 seemed as if it were embroidered on the surface.The whole room was saturated with an aroma I would never forget. It was a symphony of fresh, velvety honey coated with the magnetic smell of deep-fried food. 

Ah Ma saw. Indeed, I haven't smiled for long. Those facial muscles seemed a little foreign to control. 

Her words brought me to think about the wonderful times I had spent with Ashley when both of us anticipated our first batch of butter-cookies in Home Economics class. I remember how the steam was pregnant with the sweet aroma of the butter-cookies.  I could recall the radiant smile on her face as she relished biting into those sugar crystals that had failed to melt. All these flashbacks pulled my lips into a distant smile, which had a sugary, burnt-out taste like our cookies, and like the 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. 
There is a Chinese idiom that 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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