Sound - Down the long pebbly pathway

Sound - Down the long pebbly pathway

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

When I got home from school that afternoon, it was surprisingly quiet. My sister wasn’t there to pester me as soon as I opened the door, nor was my mother in one of her usual haunts in the house. I ran from room to room with an increasing feeling of panic at the unrelenting quiet. I asked our maid where they all were. How frustrated did I feel when I was told that everyone had gone to the birthday party of a girl slightly older than me whom I idolised for her superior dress sense and overall sophistication (she favoured frilly, knee-length socks and peter pancollared dresses tied with bows). I was distressed at missing out and was incredulous that my sister and mother would have gone without me. I expressed all this to our maid in fluent Malay while changing into my version of ‘party best’. (Now, having no memory of the Malay language, I recall this conversation with some wonder.)

On that humid and hot afternoon I insisted that we walk quickly to my older friend’s house. My little girl sandals made a soft sound against the bitumen of the road. The air was heavy, as it usually was during the tropical mid-afternoon, and it seemed that with this oppressiveness the environmental sounds were somewhat muted: birds and animals were not very active and the incessant noise of the cicadas dominated, although I felt there was a querulous tired edge to it. It seemed a long walk but eventually we approached her house. I recall what seemed truly large pebbles lining the driveway; our feet made a crisp crunching sound as we made our way across them and, not only were they noisy, but they impeded fast progress. The anticipation of what to expect on our arrival was killing me. The pilgrimage was finally over when we entered her house and I was overjoyed to discover I hadn’t missed out on the birthday tea.

Amid the joy of noisy chatter and play with this older group of children, I found something new to worry about. The large table was laden with sweet and savoury treats and I discovered, with some satisfaction, a platter of my favourite party delicacies: deep-fried crab claws. However, I was prevented from wholeheartedly enjoying my too-infrequent indulgence in this dish by the number of beautifully decorated cakes also on the table. Moreover, in the corner was the birthday cake, with bright accessories and colourful writing to acknowledge the older girl’s special day. At that point I suffered cake envy.

Recipes in this Chapter

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