Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Comfort Sweet

When I was in grade school my meager allowance provided me with a once-a week ration of chocolate KnickKnacks (those fish-shaped chocolate-covered crackers). I had to depend on my best friend Anita for the remaining 4 days. As my allowance increased a bit more, I was able to include Nissin wafers in my recess repertoire. The rectangular, cream-filled wafers, with the ice cream cone hue in transparent packaging was my favorite sweet. A thin red tape wound around the plastic was pulled off at its tip to tear the top quarter of packaging and reveal a bite-sized sugary specimen. I loved it with milk, with juice, with Iced tea, with Milo, with water.

Then my paternal grandmother presented me with a round tin can in a dull dark green shade with the imposing words GAUFRE on top. I had no idea what was inside. After several tentative minutes I opened the can to reveal a stack of perfectly thin, round wafers filled with either chocolate, vanilla or strawberry cream. It was the crispiest, thinnest dessert sandwich I had ever tasted and I fell in love. I forgot about KnickKnacks and Nissin wafers (that sad impostor!), and set my heart upon eating Gaufre (at that time I didn't even know what it meant) forever.

My grandma continued to give me a tin for a couple of years, and then she stopped; and like so many things that interest an adolescent my craving was shoved to the dustbin of my memories.

I developed a liking for new sweets, new tastes.

Until the day my sister-in-law moved to Tokyo in 2006 and suddenly my memory of thin wafers resurfaced, bringing along with it a longing for that childhood taste I once could not get enough of. For some strange reason I could remember exactly the tin, the word Gaufre, and the Japanese characters printed on the cover. I knew my sweet could be found in Japan, but I could not describe it enough to my sister-in-law, and silly me didn't even think of using google.On my trip to Japan last March I searched the basement food shops in vain. I went back to HK with the promise to look for my comfort sweet.

Luck was on my side when one drizzly afternoon my siblings and I ducked into Sogo Department Store in Tsim Sha Tsui and the first stall I see upon entering their grocery is the GAUFRE (which is French for waffle, by the way) FUGETSUDO one with tin upon tin and box upon box of my favorite wafer in the world!!!!!! I found out it is from Kobe in Japan. I was hugging the box on my way home and I had it for dessert after dinner. It was sweeter than I remembered, and probably not something I would gorge on these days, but it was crispy and light and yummy. I gave some to hubby and little boy and they loved it.

Here's to my favorite childhood sweet snack, the very best wafer as declared by my selective memory. When I visit Belgium I'm sure this might pale in comparison to what they have, but to my (much) younger self, Belgium was a world away and the tin can was within reach.