It was a sunny afternoon and I had been playing outside in the shade of the lychee trees. Trying to sample a few raw lychees and finally driven away by the caretaker of the orchard. I don’t remember climbing a tree, I was afraid that if dad found out, that would be the end of playing with my friends for the rest of the summer. Thinking back, I regret not doing it. There was a short cut to the orchard, a narrow walk way with barbed wire that one of us had to hold and the other duck down to enter. It was the coolest place to play hide and seek. Moreover, we were not yelled by the neighbors to dial it down, as that would have interfered with their afternoon slumber. Most days I would be back home before sunset, it was an unsaid rule that was the law of the land when I grew up - at least at my place. Some of the other kids were allowed to play till much later. Most days, a friend or two tagged along to sample goodies from mom’s kitchen: it was no big secret that she was a great cook.
That day I walked alone and saw my sister reading on the porch, her nails freshly painted, every hair in place: she was always perfectly put together. I walked past her, brushing against her neatly placed slippers, disturbing them. In normal circumstances she would have called out to our mother, but she was too engrossed. Shhhhh! Dad was not home yet, so I had no reason to bury my nose in a book to display my ‘pursuit of knowledge'. He disliked time-wasters and if he saw me loitering around he would always say, “Do something constructive with your time.” Mother was in the kitchen, prepping for dinner. I opened the refrigerator and found a box that came from the most exotic bakery in the neighborhood. “Pastries”, I was delighted. It was not a special occasion, why were there pastries in the refrigerator? I decided not to question the good things in life, so I opened the box and saw six beautifully arranged eclairs. I had seen them at the bakery but almost always bought the black forest pastry instead, a favorite. I was a bit disappointed not to see black-forest pastry in the box. But not disappointed enough not to sample the lovely, gorgeous eclair. I took them out and gave one to mom, one to my sister, and kept one for myself. It was the best thing I had ever had, so creamy and just a hint of chocolate on the shell. The memory of the taste of the first bite brings back a smile. Back then we had no idea what calories were, if it tasted good - you ate it. Both my sister and I were so skinny that we could afford to eat a dozen each.
When teen told me that she will be baking eclairs, it brought back some fond childhood memories. I was not sure it was a venture she was capable of taking alone. To my surprise, they turned out amazingly. It’s definitely not rocket science, and the filling is absolutely to die for. Mildly sweet, creamy and subtle flavor of vanilla, perfect dessert with a cup of coffee. She did not do the chocolate on top, as we loved the texture and taste and did not want to overpower it with chocolate.