Saturday, 9 February 2013

Pineapple Tarts

I had a nanny when I was a child. I called her Aunty Ho, but really that was her husband's name.

My family lived in Klang back then and after school I would be sent to her house before my mum picked me up in the evenings after her work.

I have many, many childhood memories set in Aunty Ho's house and street. Catching dragonflies and tadpoles with her son outside. Playing clapping games with her daugther on the cool green-tiled floor. Speaking to her husband in Mandarin. Seeing her elderly father-in-law sit as still as a statue on his chair, his black rimmed glasses magnifying his eyes.

Every Chinese New Year, Aunty Ho baked pineapple tarts. Lots and lots of them, to sell and give away, all in her small humble kitchen. They were the old school variety: a flower shaped base, fibrous pineapple jam (homecooked for hours) topped with a dough latice and glazed with eggyolk before baking. Most ones you find today are small rolled pastries stuffed with jam.

My family was given a few jars each New Year's, and I loved those tarts.

I suppose if you asked me to be objective, they probably aren't the best pineapple tarts ever. The base is slightly hard at times and not as buttery as some modern versions. The eggyolk and latice was often uneven. But to me, they tasted of love.

My family kept in touch with Aunty Ho's family through the years, visiting on festive occasions. It always amazed me that despite her humble means, she and her husband were always keen to send me and my family expensive gifts during Chinese New Year, Christmas and the Mid-Autumn Festival.

Unfortunately, Aunty Ho developed a tumour in her brain. It was removed, but she wasn't quite the same; she did not bake pineapple tarts after the operation.

About a week or two after I finished my last term exams in Manchester in 2008, I received an email from my dad saying she had passed away. This was a few years after the operation.

To this day, one of the greatest joys of the Chinese New Year are the abundance of pineapple tarts everywhere I go. And every time I see pineapple tarts that look like the ones Aunty Ho made, I remember her.

Happy Chinese New Year, everyone.


Star said...

That was such a touching post. It must be so difficult to have that memory refreshed every year, though, how wonderful is it that your Aunty Ho left a fond, happy memory for people to remember her by?!

And a belated Happy Chinese New Year to you too.

Joshua Chong said...

Thank you Star.

I would not say it's difficult, because more than her passing I remember the abundance of love she gave to me.

Indeed she left us a fond and happy memory, and many, many others like it.

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