Friendly Friday Continued: SPECIAL TREATS

A reminder that the Friendly Friday Challenge is going into Week Two of our SPECIAL TREATS challenge.

Share photos, stories, videos – anything that inspires you about the topic. Even if you’ve posted once, feel free to do it again. If you haven’t posted yet, now’s the time!

Last night I finished off the last of a carrot cake I’d made as a special treat for the family. Moist and fragrant, it reminded me of the times in Singapore when I’d make it by hand. It was quick and easy to pull together, requiring no fancy equipment and bake-able in my quirky table top oven. It reminded me of the times we’d exchange eatable treats with friends.

Like this old post, pulled from my Singapore archives.


If we were having coffee we’d be looking at a special treat of mangosteens from my hubby’s tennis friend. It’s an old, familiar Chinese tradition, to bring gifts of fruit when visiting. When I was young, my Aunties used to do it and depending on whether they were shop keepers or gardeners, we’d have treats of imported grapes or homegrown mangoes.  It’s a cordiality of friendship that I’d almost forgotten while living in Canada.

Outside of birthdays and Christmas, Westerners do not typically exchange gifts.  In fact, a work colleague once told me how uncomfortable he was when his Chinese employee kept giving him souvenirs from her vacations abroad.  I remember feeling similarly dismayed in Beijing,  when direct reports gave me elaborate gifts for Chinese New Year. US corporate policy promptly stopped the business habit.  I hear that in newly reformed China,  it is now common business practise to refuse gifts lest they be interpreted as bribes.

Maybe though, it’s not gift giving that’s different in the west. Maybe it’s the habit of home visits.  I remember the front door of my childhood home always being open. A locked wrought-iron grill door might have secured passage from strangers but the main door  was always open.  Family and friends would drop by unannounced, their arrival heralded only by the excited barking of the yard dog.

In Canada where temperatures fluctuate between plus and minus 30 degrees, the hermetically sealed doors are always shut, locked and barred against the weather.   I remember being surprised  in Singapore, when I climbed the stairs to my condo and saw the neighbor’s door flung wide open.   Their’s was a mirror image to my unit and for one brief moment I thought I had been robbed … except that the thieves had stolen my furniture and replaced it with different pieces.

It seems like it’s more of a Western tradition to socialize outside of the home.  We meet in coffee houses and  restaurants where food is paid for and bills are routinely split.  Dinner at home is reserved for close friends and family.  Invitation times are strictly prescribed and it’s bad form to arrive late. For these occasions, we bring house gifts – wine, flowers and if you’re so inclined, freshly baked goodies.

Once I was invited to a Singaporean friend’s home which she shared with her elderly parents.   I’d baked a loaf of home-made carrot cake.  Home baking is relatively rare in Singapore (many of the homes are not even equipped with ovens) and I thought an afternoon treat of coffee and cake would be nice.

My friend’s mother had eagerly anticipated the carrot cake but was puzzled when she opened the package.  It was brown, had raisins and was sweet?  It turns out that Singaporean carrot cake is a savory, stir fried dish made with steamed white turnip. In Singapore, there is no carrot in carrot cake.

Which brings me back to the mangosteen.  This is an exotic looking fruit.  Deep purple with chartreuse colored sepals, it is rock hard when green, brittle brown when ripe.  It looks like a fruit from my childhood, a  Jamaican star apple but that fruit is found only the regions around Central and South America. The Jamaican star-apple is soft, fleshy and creamy with a mushy purple pulp surrounding a mild tasting core.

Mangosteen

When I break the mangosteen apart, I see that the purple color deepens into a dark red flesh surrounding a white core.  The similarity to the Jamaican star apple ends here.  The reddish purple interior is dry and woody and the translucent fruit lifts out in to a single five piece glob.  The fruit itself is sweet and mildly acidic.  It tastes like a large skinned grape.

And very much like carrot cake … there is not a hint of mango in mangosteen.

11 Comments

  1. The post has brought back memories of Mangosteen, my fav fruit in Hong Kong. Miss it here in India. Gift giving is common in Asian culture. In India we exchange gifts during festivals & when visiting relatives/close friends. Happy CNY 🌺

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is isnt it? It’s so ingrained, I think it impolite to visit and not bring a gift 😉

      I’m surprised that mangosteen isnt in India. Seems like itd be a similar climate.

      Thanks for the CNY wishes. All the best to you too!

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      1. I checked . Mangosteen is grown in South India, warmer climate, and has different names. Dragonfruit is grown in west India. Every region has its own special fruit though hybrids are everywhere.

        Like

  2. This is a lovely post! As usual, it made me hungry 🙂
    First time I heard of the mangostán (mangosteen in Spanish)I also thought it was related to a big juicy mango!
    I must make carrot cake tomorrow. Gracias!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you it! Thanks for reading Teresa 🙂

      Why do you suppose the fruit is called mangosteen/mangostán ? It’s nothing like a mango in either taste or appearance. A mystery. I shall have to research it.

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  3. So much to learn here about traditions and food, Sandy. I have never eaten a mangosteen, but I love its colour.
    Gift giving traditions are changing in China as in certain sectors of the Western world. Philanthropic and not for profit groups can no longer accept gifts lest they be seen as favours. A thoughtful Xmas gift has turned a bit sour now. It is a shame.
    And no longer can doors be left open welcoming impromptu visits. Society changes and traditions evolve. Your overview was accurate, however
    Australians buck the trend with western punctuality. Many often run late. 10 or 15 minutes late is almost expected. We blame the long distances, we must travel or traffic in our spread out cities and perhaps that is the truth. I think you just have to allow extra timeto get to appointments in case of traffic, which means I am sometimes early for appointments.
    The Singaporean carrot cake photo is not showing upon my phone, btw.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hmmm. I’ve fixed it. You should see the picture now.
      I think it’s ok to not exchange gifts. It’s a very Asian custom to give little gifts, especially with retailers and valued customers. I always feel a little special when I get a little extra added to my purchase. Sometimes though, it’s taken to an extreme.

      Around Chinese New Year (around this time of year) it’s common for Chinese retailers to give away bonuses with x, y, z $$ purchases. I remember long line-up to redeem these things. Once when there wasn’t a line, I went to the counter to see what I’d get. To my dismay it was chintzy dog doll figurine which I had to forcibly hand back to the store clerk — she didn’t understand why I woudn’t want this free gift, hideous though it was 🙂

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