Twenty Seven

Nian eats livestock, crops and attacks people on new year’s eve. The next day, if we find ourselves still alive, we must celebrate. We must eat to our hearts’ delight. What really “touch our hearts” are prepared foods like turnip cake, taro cake, glutinous rice cake, deep fried sesame rice balls, crisp flour chips, and oh yes, if your teeth are healthy, try the roasted melon seeds. As a child, I watched my mother and her friends cracking watermelon seeds with their teeth while chit-chatting and drinking Chinese tea. At the beginning of a new year, it is customary that every family, besides serving tea, to have a dish of watermelon seeds to entertain their guests. No, the seeds are not shelled. In my memory, they were smaller than other seeds and had a red wine colour. To eat a watermelon seed, hold the seed with your thumb and index finger, put it between your teeth. While holding the seed, use your upper and lower incisors to crack the shell open. Once cracked, coordinate tongue and teeth and nimbly pull out the kernel. And now your fingers can discard the empty hull. Usually they gather as heaps on the table. Chew the seed. It’s addictive. Start another one. Enjoy a good munch while engaging in a humdrum conversation.