Sight - The temptation of pickled peaches

Sight - The temptation of pickled peaches

By
Chui Lee Luk
Contains
4 recipes
Published by
Hardie Grant Books
ISBN
9781742702407
Photographer
Chris Chen

I remember that it was yet another hot and humid afternoon when my sister and I were asked to put on our nice dresses and sandals, for we were to go on an outing. My mother told me that we would be visiting one of her friends, another grown-up, who I was expected to call ‘Auntie’. I guess I was feeling a little churlish or petulant at having my afternoon playtime interrupted, because the heat had either beaten me into languid submission or made me feel resentful about moving. It was simply one of those days when I was exhibiting resentment.

I have no recollection of how we arrived at this Auntie’s house and what it might have looked like. But the interior is still imprinted in my memory. It appeared cavernous and darkened and there was a surprising coolness about it, even without airconditioning. We were seated in a long space that might have been an enclosed verandah. I recall fidgeting on my chair while the adults exchanged greetings and what I felt was inconsequential small talk. The reward that I expected in making visits of this kind was either the opportunity to play with other children, an occasion to explore the curiosities of the house, or an amazing afternoon tea. And, with no children around, and being required to be on best behaviour as this was not an Auntie we knew well enough that I was likely to be let loose on the house, I was trying my best to wait patiently for refreshments to be offered.

The adults’ conversation seemed like a dimly lit silent film until Auntie suddenly produced a huge glass jar filled with the most vividly green round objects. My attention was totally engaged with this jar, wondering whether it was something more than an ornamental object. The words that I did eventually catch were ‘peaches’ and ‘pickled’. Auntie opened the jar in slow motion. The smell that escaped was so intense that it has remained in my memory: a seemingly incongruous combination of rain on the ground, a floral or fruity odour not quite fully developed and the overpowering vinegar smell that has always made my mouth water (and, who knows, that day may have been the first occasion I experienced that).

Auntie spooned some of the peaches onto a saucer and offered them to us to sample. I can’t recall whether I perhaps swiftly grabbed in my impatience to try these extraordinary objects (I very much hope I managed to retain some decorum). For, even to this day, I’m aware that there is a lot of gaucheness about my behaviour; that I can’t bear to follow conventional politeness when I don’t understand the reason for or significance of it. In my memory, those pickled peaches represented an impeccable moment when taste and sight were in faultless conjunction. The crisp crunch and the perfect balance of sweetness tempering sourness matched the green-ness of the fuzzy baby peaches.

I hope that on that day I learned a lesson not to be churlish and ungrateful, but to be open to experiences. Something amazing could be just around the corner, so why not let it come to you?

I almost don’t have the heart to tell you, but I now suspect the pickled peaches that so impressed me were artificially coloured to maintain their intense green-ness. Acid and salt will cause the fresh colour to deteriorate, but just be happy that the texture of the pickled peach will be crisp and the taste deliciously sweet and tart.

Recipes in this Chapter

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