Future tastes sweet for new generation

By Liu Jun Updated: 2007-08-09 14:52:40

Future tastes sweet for new generation

Ever since my son's birth two years ago, I have been engaged in a losing battle against my mother over how to feed the boy. True enough, she is a great help. But sometimes I just can't agree with her.

She keeps meticulous record of the amount of milk powder and water that the boy takes at a fixed time of the day. If anything changes, she agitates.

A few days ago, my mother pulled an "end-of-the-world" face again, when the boy refused another spoonful of food at breakfast.

My mother gets up at 5:30 every morning, preparing porridge for the boy. As she tried to navigate the spoon into his tight-shut teeth, the boy dodged with toy firefighting engines.

I saw no reason for persistence: The boy had eaten a small bowl of light sweet porridge made from lotus root powder, nearly all of the meat-vegetable stuffing of a steamed bun, crumbs of my freshly baked toast, plus chunks of mango. Could anyone have appetite for more?

After chasing after the boy all over the place, my mother eventually won the "guerrilla war". The boy ate the congee as he lied on the floor, playing with a plane.

When I was young, mum always used the phrase "yi ku si tian" - "recall the bitter past and savor the sweet present", if she wanted us to eat less tasty stuff like the cone-shaped wowotou made of maize flour.

When it comes to her grandson, however, mum wants to make sure he doesn't taste the bitter past. If I attempt to cook maize flour porridge as breakfast, which I believe is quite healthy, mum would nag me, suggesting that we can't afford anything better for our son.

Alas, eating was never so painful or controversial in my childhood. My sister and I always longed for the day each month when our family got our portion of meat from the only grocery store in the village. One must be careful to nurture good relations with the saleswomen, who decided if you could get the much-coveted fatty chunk of meat.

In autumn, when the fruits were ripe, mother would instruct us to wrap each apple and pear with pages of our used exercises books. The precious lot was stored in a basin under the bed, so we'd entertain guests with fruits during the Spring Festival in winter.

But often, the last fruit would be gone before New Year's Eve, because my sister and I couldn't resist the temptation of a sweet bite every day after school.

I suspect that my mother's strong desire to control food - what to eat, how and when - is deeply rooted in her experience. When she was in high school, the nation was struck by drought and famine. The only food in the canteen was a huge pot of water boiled with a few grains of rice. The students ran to the toilet constantly during the class, and the school cancelled PE lessons.

When mother left home for a college thousands of kilometers away, grandpa gave her three steamed buns. When she finally opened the precious package two weeks later, moulds had appeared.

"I took off the bad parts and ate the rest," recalls mum in a calm tone, ready to give my boy another cookie.

Well, I give up.

(China Daily 08/09/2007 page20)

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