In primary school, I usually had lunch at my grandparents’ home during the noon break. Knowing that I grew up with a sweet tooth, grandpa always prepared me Misandao, a traditional fried cake glazed with malt sugar, with white sesame seeds dotting the top.
Grandpa is also a sweet tooth. After lunch, he would take out the five-year-old cookie jar, lean in to catch a glimpse of what he knew to be inside, and squeeze his calloused hand in to grab out the box of Misandao. And I just sit quietly beside him, blinking my eyes at the blurred golden shape through the plastics. He placed the box of eight Misandao on the table and took out one piece, pushing the rest toward me.
Misandao is sweet, but its barley aroma mediates the feeling of greasiness and indulgence. He used to bite half of it and seemed to be observing and examining the other half, chewing slowly. I always asked him to have more, and he always replied by asking me to have more. Admiring my grandpa a lot as a little kid, I followed him, having only one piece at a time.
I used to look at the white sesame on the surface glazed with sugar, glistening under the sunlight like delicate china—gentle, mild, and soothing. It came into my mouth like a sailing boat driven by a young sailor, melting into my ocean with peace and embracement. The sweet softness extended as I chewed, like the water sleeves of classical Chinese dancers flying in the air. The movement played in slow motion—the silk flows in the air like the stream of honey that flows in me, and I dive into it. I’d take a sip of green tea—as the water vapor rose, the slightest remnant of greasiness was blown away, the bitterness of tea with the extreme mellowness of barley and sesame reaching a harmony that soothed every single nerve of me.
I could not help smiling and swaying my feet under the table. And I imagined what grandpa was thinking about, peeking over at him while he stared at the Misandao. He seemed so satisfied and peaceful with the one little piece on his hand—not even bothering to grab another one.
After all these years, I still remember the times when me and grandpa sat at the same table, each holding one small piece of Misandao and chewing silently. The rest of the golden Misandao lying on the table, the laughter of children playing at the field coming through the window, and the somewhat annoying buzzing sound of the air conditioning machine. Nothing seemed to matter or exist anymore. The joy of focusing on one piece of Misandao filled me with happiness and pacified all the dissatisfactions.
I go to my grandparents’ house for lunch less and less often since middle school, but I still had Misandao at home. A whole box to myself. And then I went abroad for college, unable to squeeze even a single box of Misandao into my suitcase.
But every time I eat alone at the dining hall in college, I go back to the little table. So my blueberry muffin is my Misandao. I carefully take off the plastic bag, peel back a small corner of the paper cup, and take a bite. I feel the crispy lid that collides with my teeth, and the refreshing blueberry that lights the cloying sweetness.
I go back all the time. When I go to class wearing the jacket with the aroma of the detergent in the morning and see the sunlight going through the leaves, when I sit on the bus listening to my favorite music that beats along with the speed of passing the flowers planted by the street, and when I walk alone on the way to the supermarket at night, seeing people playing guitar on the street, I’d secretly smile under my mask, add a few jumps to my footsteps, close my eyes, and shake my head slightly.
Just like back then when I swayed my feet under the table, for the one piece of Misandao.
With my grandpa.
Cover photo courtesy of INF News