October 9, 2009
Slices of Fruits - Tokens of Love
Sunkist Oranges and Apples (Red Delicious or Fuji or Royal Gala) are two fruits very popularly sliced and placed on the table for Foochow celebrations in those long ago days in Sibu. These slices of fruits would be happily snapped up by the diners or invited guests. They would be eaten as the guests chattered amongst themselves before the real meal started. Thus they acted as "ice breakers". And the whole table would be a happy party !
I was told by some people that they had witnessed several dinners when such Foochow camaraderie is no longer practised today. Some relatives do not even recognise one another even during special occasions! And the whole dinner was uncomfortably eaten in silence! Pairs or trio of friends could whisper (such anti social behaviour!!)to each other throughout the dinner and the total single stranger could be left out in the cold...really given the cold shoulder! Who would want to be invited again if fellow guests behave like this?
I remember also during my childhood some more pro-active parents would "ta pau" or pack the uneaten fruit slices for their eager children at home of course with the nodding and smiling approval of their fellow diners. Sometimes the hosts would also collect the "balance" of the uneaten fruits and pass them to their friends to take home. It would have been a waste if they were not eaten anyway viewed from a Foochow perspective.
For some Sibu Foochows in those days these were the only foreign fruits they ever got to eat as they would not have the means buy them for themselves. Sunkist oranges and apples were often precious gifts for the sick in the hospital besides the ubiquitous tinned Nestle fresh milk.
Today I do not think anyone would serve a complimentary plate of these lovely fruit slices as a token of welcome before a feast starts considering the high costs of everything . Peanuts and slices of vinegared vegetables would be placed at the table (at special charge).
Perhaps unknown to the Foochows at that time this plate of fruit slices is a "sweetening" practice originating from the Arabs who would serve fruits first before a meal. Nutritionally eating fruits before the main meal is a good practice.
Furthermore in the light of the fruit topic, at the end of a very sumptious Foochow dinner in Fook Chu Leu Restaurant in Sibu ,for example , during my childhood was a huge bowl of tinned longans or peaches with lots of ice cubes. This was what I would always look forward to when attending a Foochow feast. Today the dessert would be in the form of fried Shanghai pancakes or fried buns and a cold bowl of fresh rock melons and sago pearls or even some almond jelly and sea coconut.
When I was young I would never be given a whole orange or whole apple to eat all by myself. My mother would always cut up the fruits for all of us to share.
I remember very vividly the first imported whole fruit (a pear) I ever ate in my life was the one given to me by my aunt Lily in Singapore when I visited her on my way to Kuala Lumpur on a Girl Guide trip in 1968. That was a very mind blowing gesture . Somehow that particular pear tasted just so good to a Foochow teenager who came to Singapore by boat from Sibu. Aunt Lily (then a Singapore teacher) was a dear loving aunt who knew how hard life could be.
We continue to peel apples lovingly and slice oranges for the dinner table at home.
And pears? They will always remind me of my aunt Lily's great affection and compassion.
Love is a whole fruit? Or is love found in sharing slices of fruits together?