Thursday, 13 May 2010

of jam & toast, and a sad story

Warning...This is going to be a super long post!

Before I move on to talk about my jam and toast, I would like to share with you a little story, within a story...

It was a Saturday evening, we were resting on the couch to unwind from a long afternoon...we just completed a 'marathon session'...revising for the upcoming mid-year exams! I picked up the newspapers and half way through my browsing, a one-quarter page advertorial caught my attention. It was a sad and touching story about a son and his mother. I passed the papers to my younger child who was sitting right beside me. After reading, I could see from his expressions that he felt sad. Before I could say anything, he commented, "妈妈,因为他没有学弟子规!". (translated as: Ma Ma, It is because, he didn't learn "Di Zi Gui/Student's Rules. ) I was really amused by his comments. We passed the story to his brother who was half buried in his story book. He read and agreed with his brother and continued to bury himself in his book. It was a surprise when I saw my younger child re-read the story again. I studied him with great interest...I could see his pupils moving from left to right...stopping briefly at certain paragraphs or texts. I then realised that he was reading some of the lines just to confirm what he interpreted was correct. He put down the papers and said "他真的很bad!(He is really bad!) How can he said that to his mother?"; "He didn't even cry when his mother passed away!". He was very upset with the son.

By now, I am sure you are interested to read about the story. It goes like this:

A son hated her him, she was such an embarrassment. When he was in elementary school, his mother went to say hello to him in school. He was so embarrassed that he ignored her and threw her a hateful look and ran away. The next day, one of his classmates said, "EEEE, your mom only has one eye!". He confronted her that day and said, "If you're only gonna make me a laughing stock, why don't you just die?!!!"

His mom did not respond. He didn't even stop to think for a second about what he had said, because he was full of anger. He was oblivious to her feelings. He wanted out of that house, and have nothing to do with her. So he studied real hard, got a chance to go to Singapore to study. Then, he got married, bought a house and had kids. He was happy with his life, his kids and the comforts.

Then one day, his mother came to visit him. She hadn't seen him in years and she didn't even meet her grandchildren. When she stood by the door, his children laughed at her, and he yelled at her for coming over uninvited. He screamed at her, "How dare you come to my house and scare my children! Get out of here now!!!" And to this, his mother quietly answered, "Oh, I'm so sorry. I may have gotten the wrong address," and she disappeared out of sight.

One day, he receivied a letter regarding a school reunion. He decided to attend the reunion back at his home town. After the reunion, he went to the old shack where he was raised, just out of curiosity. His neighbours told him she died. He did not shed a single tear. They handed him a letter which she had left for him. This is what she wrote:

"My dearest son,
I think of you all the time. I'm sorry that I came to Singapore and scared your children. I was so glad when I heard you were coming for the reunion. But I may not be able to even get out of bed to see you.

I'm sorry that I was a constant embarrassment to you when you were growing up. You see........when you were very little, you got into an accident, and lost your eye. As a mother, I couldn't stand watching you having to grow up with one eye. So I gave you mine. I was so proud of my son who was seeing a whole new world for me, in my place, with that eye.

With my love to you,
Your mother."

I am glad that 弟子规 Di Zi Gui is included in their school's curriculum. 弟子规 Di Zi Gui, or "Students' Rules" documents the standards for being a good student and child. The full set of rules comprises 1080 characters. The verses are very profound, teaching and imparting morals and good virtues to children. In summary, this set of rules teaches a child to show filial piety at home, respect the elders, behave prudently and trustfully, love all universally, and draw close to sages; when one has energy to spare, he should study edification by the sage. My favourite rules (since they are really to my great advantage) are:

父母呼 应勿缓...when parents call, don't be slow to respond;
父母命 行勿懒...when parents give an order, act, don't be lazy;
父母教 须敬听...when parents teach, one must listen with respect; 
父母责 须顺承...when parents reprimand, one must accept.

The following day, it was Mother's Day. It was a usual weekend, just like any other Sundays. We didn't celebrate the occasion, although I did asked my kids where were my presents! One pretended he didn't hear anything...the other one declared that he had already given it to me (my birthday gift)!

Even though there were no cakes, flowers or cards, it still warms my heart to know that my children are able to understand some of morals and teachings behind the 弟子规 Di Zi Gui. Although it is too early to judge whether they are going to be a good person later in in their lives, for the time being, I choose to think that they would not go down the wrong path, at least not too soon.

Now, back to my jam and toast...

About the toast:

I have not been making bread as frequently as I like. As a result, my recent bread-making attempts did not turn out as expected. I made a loaf of focaccia which was like a piece of cardboard...I added too much wholemeal flour, so, instead of bread I had bricks.

Then I made this loaf bread. I divided the dough into two portions and kneaded one tablespoon of instant coffee powder to one of them. The two doughs rose nicely during the first proofing. I shaped the loaf and left it to proof the second time. It took way too long to rise up to the brim of the baking I was running out of time, I sent it into the oven...hoping the 'oven spring' would cause the bread to expand a little bit more. The bread didn't balloon much, and in the end I had a rather short bread. The texture was not as soft and light as my previous attempt. I suspect I could have killed the yeast with the warm water I used to mix the dough :'(

About the jam:

I made this papaya and banana jam a couple of weeks ago. I must say it tasted better than its look. I should have mashed up the fruits before cooking to get a smoother jam, it looked more like salsa than jam to me. I kept the bottle of jam in the fridge...trying to deny its existence.

As for the loaf bread, it looked better than its taste. Other than the colour, I couldn't taste any coffee flavour in the bread! The bread was tasteless on its own. I tried it with peanut butter, the taste was so so. Then, I remembered my salsa-lookalike jam. I paired the two together and it was an instant hit! Almost like a match from heaven...the two were meant for each other, just waiting for the opportunity to cross each others paths...the pretty but plain toast became delicious when slapped generously with the ugly but yummy jam ;)

I won't be posting any recipes here as I am sure no one will be interested to make either one of these two!


Quinn said...

Haha, perhaps you could have run the jam through an immersion blender, that would have make it smooth and spreadable. Nice story, I've heard of that somewhere and I think it is a good tool to educated kids nowadays!

Anonymous said...

Tks so much for sharing this touching article! I had it printed and let my girls read them.
A mother's love is so great!

My mother's day was also spent in the study preparing my girls for their exams;)
Your bread looks yummy, will try it one of these days, hopefully won't have any tunnels inside!

*Ah Bii* said...

I have read this story many many times but it continues to wreck my heart every single time.

By the way, I love the stuff you bake! ^___^

martina said...

touching story... I love the way you care about your children and their education, remembering every time that human relationships are precious as much as school stuff (and even more). Enjoy them
cheers Martina

Cuisine Paradise said...

Thanks for sharing this touching story. Tears roll down after reading this passage to my boy.... It's was so touching that in the end it was his mum who gave him one of her eye in order to make him complete and see this beautiful world. A mum's love is so huge that nothing in this world can compare with.....

Honey Bee Sweets said...

Think I've read that story before...but not from the newspaper. You have very sensible boys, I guess they are well taught by you. Great job! Lately, I am not too successful on my bread baking...might the weather, heehee!

Sonia ~ Nasi Lemak Lover said...

Luckily my kids also study 弟子规 in school...and nice presentation.

Bakericious said...

HHB, that is such a sad story, i feel so heart pain when reading it. Sometimes just dun understand why children can be so heartless towards parents who raised them up :(. Your sons are so sensible, they are well taught by u. My daughter used to always got me to read her the 弟子规 which I always think she dun understand since the chinese is quite chim and she was only 4 yrs old then. After reading ur post, i better read to her more.
The bread looks so nice esp the swirl pattern, i attempted bread making twice but both not successful but every time look at your bread will give me the urge of trying. And i love your photos, all look so pro.

Ice Pandora said...

There was a blind girl who hated herself just because she was blind. She hated everyone, except her loving boyfriend. He was always there for her. She said that if she could only see the world, she would marry her boyfriend.

One day, someone donated a pair of eyes to her and then she could see everything, including her boyfriend.
Her boyfriend asked her, "now that you can see the world, will you marry me?" The girl was shocked when she saw that her boyfriend was blind too, and refused to marry him.

Her boyfriend walked away in tears, and later wrote a letter to her saying..... "Just take care of my eyes dear." i'll always love you forever..
Kind off remind me of the story... so sad!
You are a good mother having these great kids ^^
Anyway love the recipe!

Life is full of surprises said...


Thank you for sharing this. Your boys are so sensible and appreciative.
I truly appreciate that Di zi Gui is being taught to my kids now. I hope they will learn and appreciate the values taught.

Anonymous said...

Your bread looks really lovely! A pity you weren't fond of the taste though. I hate it when something looks better than it tastes!

Btw, thank you for sharing the story :)

Anonymous said...


Your bread looks fantastic! Could you please post the recipe here? Many thanks~


sherlyn said...

Oh .. what a sad story ... I must tell it to my kids tmr. I subscribe ST too, but I did not see this article. Thanks for bringing it out, and I guess I must go get a simple book on Di Zi Gui now.

I think your bread looks nice and ya the jam look like salsa (sorry, but I love salsa, esp with chips). Anyway, like you say (you say ah, not me), you did not do well probably cos you have not done it for quite some time .. but I think it could also be due to the exam stress that you might be having ;->

Anyway June holidays are round the corner and I am sure I will be able to see more of your lovely bakes.

Clare @ Mrs Multitasker said...

What a great story =)
Happy (belated) Mothers' Day!

Mandy said...

reading the story makes me sad. But I am happy for you that you have 2 very understanding and obedient sons. btw, I have never heard of 弟子规 before this! Definitely something good to know.

Alisa said...

What a very touching story. You however are too hard on your toast. It looks wonderful! It may need some tweaks to the recipe, but it sure looks great!

kirbie said...

Oh wow, that really is such a sad story =(

hanushi said...

HHB, is it a real-life story? Sniff sniff...

Ice Pandora story is touching as well...

Anonymous said...

That was such a sad story, I still can't believe the son didn't feel anything after his mom telling him she gave him her eye...I can't even concentrate on the yummy looking jam

Thank you for sharing, it was a touching story

Anonymous said...

Hi HHB thanks for sharing this article. My girl once come back from school, told me that one of her classmate is embrassed by her mother who bought McDonald lunch for her to eat in school. I told my girl, your friend should learn to appreciate that the mother make the effort to do so. Her friend should feel proud instead of embrassment...Kids nowadays are so pampered and fortunate that they take everything for granted, wonder if this is also the reason that they cannot take pressure like those kids from China.

Sue said...

You may not need to post my comment as I'm writing on different subject or maybe the hottest subject now...language! After reading your blog about your conversation with your sons, I found that you are speaking mandarin to them. I'm also speaking mandarin to my 2 children, aged 10 and 4. You may think this is normal but a lot of parents don't think so. When some parents heard me speaking mandarin to my children, they found it "amazing" or "surprise" or "puzzle"! Some even gave me impression that I'm "no class"! I'm not if you have such encounter before. But I strongly believe what we are doing now is the very right thing. Currently in Singapore, English is much easier to pick up than Chinese. When a child enters school, English will come easily to him. Now, my 4 year old son's teacher told me my son speaks better mandarin than some of the K2 students. Also, his spoken English is also progressing very well. My elder child is doing well in her higher Chinese too. I am happy to see the result of my effort. I like to read you blog as I find you a humble person and also a very capable homemaker. Have a nice weekend and also enjoy the coming school holidays :-)

Happy Homebaker said...

Hi Quinn, I don't have a immersion blender, I use a fork ;')

Ice Pandora, I have heard of that story too :)

Hi Tammy, I'm sorry I won't be posting the recipe for the time being, I will need to test it again. Hope u understand.

Hi Anonymous, I think your girl's classmate probably feels that it is a very 'baby' thing to have your mother bring food for you ;)

Hi Sue, I am posting your comment as it is very meaningful.

Yes, yes, we speak to our boys in Mandarin, the very first day they arrived to this world (and that was 12 yrs ago, our decision has got nothing to do with China, lolz!). So my kids are included in the 40% of students from 'non-English-speaking' family ;p

My friends have actually 'warned' me that at least one of the parents should speak to them in English, but we have our own values/principles, so we don't care what others think about us. Both of us are true blue "Chinese Helicopters!"...we are from 'Chinese schools' and so our thinking are very Chinese. I don't care whether people think of me as no class, I just want my kids to do well in Mandarin as we both know that it is so much easier to pick up English. Most importantly, we cannot stand it if they are not able to understand, speak, read and write Chinese as well as we do ;)

and actually, how many parents here speak proper English to their kids??? I cringe every time when I hear mothers speaking "with a great sense of pride' to their kids in broken English. I will play a game with my kids whenever there is such an opportunity...I will get them to correct the English.

So Sue, I am in your camp, you are not alone, and don't worry what other thinks. I am sure in years to come, you will be proud of your kids' command of Chinese.

Shirley @ Kokken69 said...

HHB, I have to be honest... I only read the story and stopped there. This is the first time I heard about 弟子规. I don't know that they teach that in school now and I am glad they do. I am strangely moved by your younger child's reaction...that he was affected and could straight away attribute it to the lack of moral training in the subject...and he actually went back to re-read the article... You've taught him well and should be proud of him.

Happy Homebaker said...

Hi Shirley, although my younger child is more tuned in to other people's nature he is a compassionate child, I didn't expect him to react this way too.

Anonymous said...

thanks for the story :)
absolutely know what you mean when you say it looks better than it tastes!
i hate when that happens. all well.
at least it looks good!

Aimei said...

Thanks for sharing the touching story.. :)

Pei-Lin said...

Thank you for sharing that story and that story-within-story! That son ... *Sigh* ... I'm speechless ... I feel ashamed to say that I couldn't recall if I did in fact learn 弟子規 though I attended 華文獨立中學. At close to 23, I can tell you I'm talking to my own parents as if they're my best friends though there's still reverence for them for bringing me up (without asking anything in return). I still sort of obey by 君君臣臣父父子子 thing by Confucius. Of course, there's always disagreement that further leads me to rude behavior and harsh tone. *Sigh* Hopeless!? In reality, I'm very different from the rest of my family, e.g. they love eating out and buying prepared (store-bought) foods. I'm the opposite. I've got a tendency to get into a fight with them. Nowadays, I think I should learn to "tame" myself down by 開著一隻眼,閉著一隻眼或視一切為透明. Bad, huh?

Hey, no worries! There are always ups and downs in any endeavor we pursue. So is bread making, right? Hmmm ... Your banana and papaya jam has tickled my fancy. It's been eons since I last involved myself in jam making! Hey, summer is comin'! Maybe I should try! Thanks for bringing back my memories from the U.S.!

Bakertan said...

very touching story. morale of the story - 天下的妈妈们都是伟大的 =]

It is good to hear that childeren these days have 弟子规 included in their curriculum. I never had a chance to study it when I was little.

Your bread look really appetizing even though you dont seem satisfy with it. I like the contrasting swirl pattern in the bread.