Send Me Love Letters
This is not an invitation to trolls and psychotic lurkers with bad grammar.
Firstly, the Chinese Lunar New Year is neigh and suddenly all the shops are bursting with red, orange and gold as all the festive food and decorations are brought out with gaudy exuberance.
Every corner you turn is a shop with boxes of tantalising Chinese New Year cookies, golden kumquats, earth-hued rice cakes, bright red ang paos (red packets for extortion money given to kids during this season), luscious green miniature bamboos styled to look like tiny pyramids ...
It is a feast for the senses. The colours are so bright you need sun glasses. The scent of waxed duck, sausages, fatt choy (sea moss) and their other partners in culinary crime entice you even at ten paces. The sound of the shop keepers shouting out that their wares are the freshest!, the best! (or besterest, as I heard one loquacious man say), the cheapest! The taste of the delicious kumquats which some nice shop keepers will allow you to sample to prove that they are sweet leaves you wanting to cart the entire carton home. The gold glitter on the ang paos leave little fairy glitter on your hands - a sure sign that they are inferior but why would you want to spend more money to give your money to rugrats anyway???
I typically do not celebrate Chinese New Year but I love this season because of the abundance of food available! And the most exotic food too. I made an effort learn quite a few traditional dishes that are served during the Chinese New Year which I actually cook during the rest of the year anyway because I like them so much.
One of my favourite things during this season are Chinese love letters - actually the best ones are Peranakan love letters. I can inhale tins & tins of this scrumptious cookies at a go. And I am not exaggerating. I have literally finished an entire tin of love letters in one evening. If love letters were available all year round, I will end up looking like that guy Moe in The Biggest Loser.
I bought a small (to limit collateral damage) tin a few days ago. I thought it would be rather nice to have some for tea during the Chinese New Year, which is on 29 January. Rrrright ... I am so delusional. They're all gone now. I have to go buy more.
See? Sensible people would say now you had your fix and been a bad girl so no more love letters for you. Not me. I wail plaintively, "Oh no, I need love! Gimme love letters! More!" Sad.
For a girl who actually edited love letters and returned them to the senders with a note "Do not see me", this unhealthy obsession with this seasonal cookie is extremely ironic. And believe me, these thinly rolled-up devil's ambrosia are unhealthy.
Love letters are made of eggs and coconut. Fragrant, crispy and totally addictive, each svelte roll can be consumed in just three bites. And then you wonder where it's gone. So you eat another. And another. And next thing you know you are weeping for a lost love (and lost waistline). You are desolate and contemplating a new hairstyle to assuage your overwhelming grief.
For the safety of your coiffure, you go out and buy another tin instead. This time a bigger tin. Yeah, that's the ticket.
I have never made love letters and have seen it made only once. I was visiting my grandfather and his neighbour was sitting out in her garden with her (I think) sister and another neighbour. I peered at them through the fence that separated the two houses and watch wide-eyed as these intrepid women wielded long, wrought iron tongs with a round paddle-looking end over hot coals. They looked like waffles mould. I wondered why they were making waffles in the middle of the afternoon. A large pot of creamy looking substance sat between them. At first I was completely mystified. Then I realised what they were making when the knee-melting aroma hit me. Love letters!
Suddenly I wanted to go round and make friends with them! Yes, I am shameless. No, I do not care!
I never quite knew why the Chinese call love letters ... well, love letters. My grandfather told me a convoluted story about some fairy (no, not that kind of fairy!) and a cowherd who were so star-crossed that they could only communicate with each other through letters hidden in these cookies. All I can say is at least they did not do it through letters hidden in cow pads. Imagine that ... Honey, I got your bullshit today ...
On that delicate and romantic note, I am off to the shops to replenish my love letters supply. A girl's got to get love where she can, ya know?