Heard on radio today about cultural food heritage.
The conversation was on the popular treat during Chinese New Year called love letters.
The lament is that most love letters today are factory made. Unlike the past when love letters were made in the traditional way, the love letters today are made with factory precision, speed and quantity. They are simply “loveless letters.” You can tell the difference between the two by their taste.
The memory is still vivid for me even though it is some 50 years ago.
I could picture my mum sitting on a stool in the backyard of our house flipping intermittently 3 or 4 cast iron moulds over a hot charcoal stove.
The painstaking process of making love letters begins with squeezing freshly grated coconut in a clean white cloth.
When the batter is ready, then comes the technique of pouring it on preheated moulds to ensure each letter would be thin and crisp. On occasions the sides of the mould had to be scraped with a knife to remove any excess batter that seeped through.
The moulds had to be turned often over the hot-cindered charcoal for an even grill. My mum had to keep a constant watch over the grill to add more charcoal when it is insufficiently hot.
When the love letters are beautifully grilled to a light golden brown, they have to be rolled quickly with a chopstick before it cools down, hardened and becomes brittle.
I remember my older siblings trying to help in the rolling. The results were burnt fingers and many failed attempts. But these ugly rolls made for happy bellies as we greedily gobbled up the “rejects.”
Making love letters in this traditional way is arduous and laborious, not to mention hot and sweaty sitting in front of the charcoal stove for hours just to produce a few Milo tins of love letters.
No wonder they are called love letters because they are made from a labor of love.
When I think of love letters, I am reminded of this verse in Hebrews 6:10
“For God in not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.”