my first taste of maple syrup was at age four. in auntie's house (the nanny who lived upstairs of us). in her kitchen. on one of those wooden/metal stools in front of one of those wooden/metal folding tables.
set in front of me was one of those blue/green metal dishes. and in it lay one precious piece of mcdonald's hotcake. beside it, a little plastic container of half-used maple syrup.
i remember age four because not long before that, i'd just learnt how to tell people my age. to anyone who asked, i'd hold up one palm, fold my thumb under with the remaining fingers upright, and say quite proudly: 四岁.
as a kid, i used to hate food. i was one of those who'd spend hours over a meal, and at the end of it, still have large chunks of it, all chewed and sucked dry of its juice, hidden in the sides of my mouth. i don't think i'd ever had an enjoyable meal.
not until that day.
that hotcake and the maple syrup, they weren't even meant for me, initially; they were somebody else's leftovers. by then, i already understood enough of hokkien and adult conversations to figure that out. did i care? i didn't; i'd never seen a hotcake (nor maple syrup) in my life.
funny thing is, i do not remember enough to describe in detail how i felt the moment i tasted the hotcake-maple syrup combination. i don't remember enough to write about how my tastebuds might have exploded in ecstasy, my eyes opened, my mind awakened henceforth to the knowledge of good and evil.
i do remember though, a vague sense of what i might put in words today as: can something so tasty be considered food? a meal? something adults actually allow me to eat?
so that beautiful morning, i sat, in auntie's house, on one of those wooden/metal stools in front of one of those wooden/metal folding tables, with one of those blue/green metal dishes set in front of me, that precious piece of mcdonald's hotcake smiling up at me, and a little plastic container of half-used maple syrup sitting quietly, unassumingly beside it.
armed with a set of plastic mcdonald's fork and knife, i remember patiently dissecting that precious piece of mcdonald's hotcake first into triangular pieces, and then squarish ones, and then rectangular ones.
i remember first carefully dribbling little drips and drops of the gleaming, glistening liquid from that little plastic container of half-used maple syrup onto my triangular/squarish/rectangular pieces of hotcake. then becoming bolder, pouring the syrup onto each piece in pretty, swirly little circles, then squares, then triangles. and finally, just spearing each piece with the fork and dunking it into the container so it'd become totally drenched and drowned in that glorious gooey goodness of adult-permitted liquid candy.
i remember sensing vague vibes of satisfaction from auntie, who was busy, distracted by her many household chores. finally, something was keeping me occupied long enough for her to actually get some things done, must have been what she was thinking.
later, i was praised for finishing my food on my own for the first time. i don't think she realised i was almost done with the maple syrup too.