八宝粥, literally to mean “Eight Treasures Porridge” is a traditional congee concoction enjoyed on 腊月初八 the 8th day of the 12th month in the Chinese Lunar Calendar, hence giving rise to its other name, 腊八粥. Having it roots in Buddhism, the history of this dish can be traced back more than 2200 years back to the Han dynasty when it was generally used as part of prayer offerings and not consumed. Interestingly during the Song dynasty more than 800 years ago , the folks then began enjoying this porridge for themselves, causing it to evolve and change to reflect the culinary characteristics of each period in history, as well as in accordance to personal taste and liking.
The first pound cake I’d tasted was a Sara Lee, and I’m pretty sure its the same for many of you. I remember having cravings for it when I was young, often picking up a loaf which was baked in tin foil from the frozen food section of a local supermarket and pestering my mum to put it into her shopping basket. This usually proved futile as the loaf mostly got sneaked back into the chiller compartment, but once in a very blue moon, my mum’s stance would soften and accede to our persistent pleads and protests and concede defeat. Then it is up for us to bicker on which flavour to bring back home. Our default choice is chocolate swirl, as we get the best of both worlds, i.e. rich buttery layers interlaced with ribbons of chocolate. A single loaf would usually last us over a couple of days, and sometimes a week if my sister and I have enough “determination” to prolong the “days of savouring pleasure”.
Over the years, we eat it less and less, probably weaned off the craving or perhaps because the spectrum of choices broaden over time. But Sara Lee pound cakes earned a special place in our hearts, being a “childhood delight” and often the central theme of several acts of child’s play, signing makeshift pacts and treaties to restrain each other from stealing bits of cake from the refrigerator without the knowledge of the other, drafted from torn out pages of school exercise books, to lil’ games like whose cake slices contained the most streaks of chocolate swirls. Totally silly and bewildering now in retrospect but its these little moments of pleasure that help fuel and formulate the most powerful memories which we cherish as time goes by.