5 November 2020
When 84-year-old Granny Weng (翁奶奶)knew that we were coming to Kinmen Island the next day, she hopped on the bus to do some shopping in the city.
Among the gifts she bought us were little round biscuits called “Kao So,” (口酥) which means crispy in the local Kinmen dialect.
Over tea by the doorway of her ancient courtyard she offered us the treats which my grandmother would have eaten during her childhood more than a 100 years ago.
As she eagerly removed the packaging, the hardy grandmother explained in our dialect, “kao so si lin ah ma zou gin na eh si zun siang si kiah.” (Rough translation: This biscuit was popular during your grandma’s childhood).
November is a month of harvesting, uprooting & stock taking. The biscuit episode happened last June, months before border closures because of the pandemic.
Some of us may not have pedigree lineage to speak of, nor scholars or high fliers among our forefathers. But as ordinary as some origins may be, they are worth remembering.
Biting on a “Kao So” biscuit that day felt like breaking bread to renew a shared heritage that had been quietly waiting for me all these years.
And I have an octogenarian’s affection and efforts to thank for this realisation.