Letters of Life

Of Cool Nights and Pineapple Tarts


The lunar new year, which the Chinese celebrate all over the world, is a good thing.

January 1st came too early, it wasn’t a cause for celebration. I think it took the whole of January just to get used to the idea of 2013, and for everyone’s schedules to settle and take root.

Today is the first day of the lunar new year, and I am ready.

It is already a memorable new year, for it’s the first time in years that it’s rained, rained all day and all night, all week. Past Chinese New Years have been too bright and hot and dry, but now I’m in a sweatshirt and pants, my college winter uniform in the American Midwest of long ago.

I’ve also allowed myself the extravagant indulgence of eating pineapple tarts, a favourite childhood confection which my grandmother used to bake just before the arrival of the lunar new year. The pineapple tart is a staple of Chinese New Year sweetmeats only found in Singapore and the region. It’s not found in places like Vancouver or San Diego, or places where the Straits Chinese are a small presence.

The pineapple tart is a spoonful of pineapple jam on a bed of golden buttery pastry so delicate the best-made ones crumble as the fingers carry it into an open mouth. My grandma’s were of course the best, pineapple jam turned a rich burgundy in the oven, a curl of pastry crowning the mound, and the pale crumbly pastry waiting to be enjoyed on hot afternoons with nothing interesting on the TV and the homework all done.

My brother would take one of several used Danish butter cookie tins, the ones my grandma had filled with at least three layers of freshly-baked tarts and put it on his knees. He would pull the tin top off, and pop one tart into his mouth. And another, and so on. The tarts were light and fluffy, and one would not want to stop until the sated feeling came. But that always took a while.

To eat a pineapple tart is to indulge in childhood memories, the tasty afternoons, to remember all that was good and innocent and sweet and satisfying.

Note: I wish I could put a picture of the tarts my grandmother made, but none exist. And because tarts are all handmade, the look of the tarts are all different, whether in the colour of the jam, the colour of the pastry, and of course in the taste and texture, depending on who made them.


Tagged as: ,

Categorised in: Good Food, Sessions of Sweet Silent Thought (Reflections)

2 Responses »

  1. It’s so hard to recreate our families recipes. There is just something about the way grandma baked/cooked something that tasted so much better. I suppose it was made with love…and a ton of butter 🙂

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