Writing Contest Winning Entry – June Pau
“Red dates, wolfberries, white fungus and some rock sugar,” you mumbled as I diligently took notes. There was reluctance lingering in your tone, I could discern.
“And don’t forget to soak the peach gum overnight.”, you reminded sternly as you looked me in the eye.
I already knew what you were going to say. But I nodded anyways.
I’ve always had a thing for chewy textures. So, when I discovered the chewy goodness of peach gum, I simply could not resist. It consisted of all my favorite elements in a dessert. The crunchiness of the white fungus, the chewy peach gum and the sweet aroma from the red dates and wolfberries tying everything together.
And that’s when your journey of mastering the recipe began, testing out the perfect proportions, the best sugar to use, or how long it should simmer and boil. Dedicating your hours every weekend, you stood in our tiny kitchen slaving away; not uttering a single word until it was ready, and you call me for a taste. It was something I looked forward to, something that connected you and me. Something that shed light and warmth to our once wordless conversations, something that made me see another side to your love that I always misunderstood.
Because we were never the best at expressing ourselves, you and me. I inherited your stubbornness and pride, your shyness with affection and your misusing of words. We were both too good at saying harsh things we didn’t mean, too clueless on how to take it back. But maybe our miscommunication was what led to a stronger bond, one that was not held by words, but by something more. Because your love was unspoken, mellow and soft; but it was always there.
It was there when I miraculously got the scholarship to pursue my dreams. It was there when I experienced heartbreak, when the only thing I could do was tell everyone I was okay. It was there when we got in a heated fight, and none of us had the courage to apologize. Because though you never knew the right words to say, I’d always find a bowl of peach gum soup right on my desk. No note, no message, and I’d understand. It was your way of saying sorry, your way of ruffling my hair to tell me you’re proud of me, your way of enveloping me into a hug.
“It’s comfort food,” I’d say, to people who asked of my love for the dessert. But is also our connection, the invisible string that ties us together, a channel of love that we mutually understand. Now as I remember your reluctance that day, I finally understand. That you realized I’m all grown up now, and after everything time has stolen, soon I’ll be making peach gum soup without you. Maybe that’s the most heartbreaking part, the part where you’d think, “she doesn’t need me anymore”.
I could never bring myself to tell you this, dad. But although I’m all grown up now, fending for myself far away from home; I’ll always need you, and I’ll always be your little girl. And so, to reassure you, I recite the ingredients for the soup again as you send me off at the airport that day.
“Red dates, wolfberries, rock sugar, white fungus and…” I trail off, fidgeting my suitcase.
Your hopeful eyes light up and your lips curl into small smile. “And don’t forget to soak the peach gum overnight.”
I already knew what you were going to say. But I nod anyways.