Twenty eight

Iris and I made our first turnip cake in our life! It’s no big deal Iris said, but to me it’s an achievement. I always thought this work belongs to my grandmother and great grandmother, not me. Considered the lost daughter in the family, I have never learnt to sew and cook. But now the elders are gone, and my daughter looks towards me for tradition. I must not forget to give her red packets every year! This year I gave her more - we made a turnip cake. It was just like baking a cake, she exclaimed. What’s so difficult! It’s not, perhaps, it was just me. I have a self-image problem; I was that spoiled child, or to put it nicely, that neglected child, who was always fed home-made food without staying too long in the kitchen. And nobody asked me to pay attention. Lucky or not, I was never given the responsibility of cooking. Turnip cake, in my consciousness, is a tradition which I am just a half-participant in. So it’s a great task to make from scratch, to steam, and eventually taste one. It was delicious, the three of us agreed. To complement the turnip cake, I cooked congee, with bean curd sheets and Ginkgo nuts. The Ginkgo nuts were from local trees, picked up by our Japanese friend Keiko, who handed them to me in a small pink organza bag as a gift. I have never thought these nuts could be collected from trees, and for free. We used to get them from shops, shelled and cleaned. Ginkgo nuts are harvested in autumn, Keiko said, wear latex gloves to pick up the fruit and squeeze the seed into a plastic bag. The smell from the flesh of the fruit could be repulsive! I could not help thinking what a laborious job it was. Even though I received them scrubbed and cleaned, when I cracked open the Ginkgo nuts, I could still smell the distinct odour of stinky cheese.