Thursday, April 19, 2018

Osthmanthus & Guava: An older and more sedate time!

Guava fruit and the beautiful trunk.

                                        Osthmanthus fragrans©Am Ang Zhang 2011

In The Cockroach Catcher:

The examinations were finally over and I was back home in the village that I had more or less abandoned for the most of the last five years.  I could not remember skies as bright and temperature as high, but it was a nice interlude from the mad preparations and the nerve-wracking examinations.
         We had an unusually dry May. The worst of the 1966 rains seemed like a distant memory and the crisp blue skies somehow made the heat tolerable. Even back then we seemed to be complaining of the ever rising temperatures in Hong Kong. The way we had been complaining about the rise every year, the temperature should really have reached 110 or more by now. The air-conditioning of offices, followed by that of private homes, necessarily led to the feeling of higher ambient temperatures in the streets.
         The garden was filled with the fragrance of the white tropical jasmines.  That fragrance is only second to that of the Osmanthus (Gui Hua)[1], the flowers of which are tiny and appear more towards winter. We used to collect the Osmanthus flowers, dry them and use them to flavour our best teas.  Jasmine is more a late spring and summer flower and we had a big bush. By nightfall the cooling hill breeze brought with it occasional whiffs that made you want summer to last forever.
         It was a peculiar time for those of us who had lived in or around the university for the past five years.  We left home as school children and now we were back, and with any luck the majority of us would in a few weeks become fully fledged doctors ready to apply our skills.
         We had changed and the rest of the family probably not as much; and yet it was a time to savour – the last of the old before embarking on the new and brave.
         It was good to be reminded of the fine cooking back home, of an older and more sedate time when shopping was done twice a day for fresh ingredients.  This practice of course still continues in some parts of the world.

.........The guavas were not quite ready but our own giant papaya tree seemed capable of fruiting through the year. These were yellow fleshed and delicious though without the special fragrance associated with the red variety. Bananas too grew wild and bunches were cut when ready and suspended from a tripod for indoor ripening. It was too risky to let them ripe on the tree as various animals and birds would have had first claim.

[1] Osmanthus (Gui Hua) - Osmanthus fragrans is a flower native to China that is valued for its delicate fruity-floral apricot aroma. It is especially valued as an additive for tea and other beverages in the Far East.

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