I always wondered why, when we grow up, many of us tend to lose the intensity of our sweet tooth. No longer do we hastily bound up the steps of the escalator, buzzing with excitement to reach the candy store that boasts of rainbow colored jellies and assorted chocolates, or the ice cream parlor flaunting all the fun flavors that we try to taste test (and mind you, we try to taste as many as possible). No longer do we sneakily attempt to get in a bite of dessert before eating the ‘real food.’ No longer do we let go of the paint-chipped monkey bars once we catch sight of the manong who sells taho, running up to him with the biggest, brightest smile, eager to taste all that sago and tofu and syrupy goodness.
They say your palate develops and matures—you can now handle the bitter burn of liquor or the toasty darkness of black coffee. And I, too, would wonder why everything related to growing up is shrouded by this veil of darkness and dreariness, by this edged undercurrent of bitterness and cynicism. Does the world become more bitter or is it we that become more bitter?
But I believe that within every adult is a child that makes home within the most hallowed-out, empty parts of ourselves, tethered to our most faraway dreams and free-spirited memories—a child that is living and breathing and longing, starry-eyed with wonder and filled with an ache for all that is purely good and honest and beautiful and, well, sweet. So I want us to relearn what it’s like to be a child, tug a little on that tether and see what parts of us we can unearth, and what better way to do that than through remembering, and what better sense to use to remember than through taste.
A cup of tsokolate—
We start by placing the tablea in a pan with low heat and stirring it until it’s all melted. We add in a splash of milk, reminiscent of that warm creamy cup we’d drink before heading to bed. When we were kids, we always got to rest. We’d lay down our worn out bones after a day of scraped knees and silly faces and sticky hands, falling into the embrace of blissful slumber, into the arms of our Mom or Dad, Ate or Kuya, Lolo or Lola. So allow yourself to rest once in a while, allow yourself to be held, to settle your head on someone else’ shoulder.
Add in the cream, and a little cinnamon and nutmeg that tastes so vividly of a piece of our favorite time—the holidays. Remember the laughter and song tinkling around the room lit aglow by Christmas lights. Remember sitting under the tree, unable to fight back the upward tug at the corners of lips, the squeals of delight, opening up every present with so much anticipation and gratitude. Remember how it felt like magic—suspended in time and bellied by love and joy, by the bonds so evidently tied amongst the people feasting on the Noche Buena spread.
Now pour in your simple and staple brown sugar. Honest and easy and straightforward, just like kids. They say, “I love you” when they love you. They say, “I miss you” when they miss you. They cry when they’re hurt, they smile when they’re happy. Sincerity is sweet, just like sugar.
Stir that all together, creating a drink that celebrates your present self and your inner child full of all the richness and depth of adulthood balanced with that nostalgic sweetness of childlikeness.
Then you serve and share—when you take a sip, let the emanating warmth swirl around your mouth, curl around your stomach, and finally, melt your heart. Grasp tightly onto that cup between your callused, tired hands, and my dear, don’t you ever let go.