HK Alphabet :: P

P :: Pineapple buns

In the dark early morning, Matt arrives just as the buns are pulled from the oven, and he gets a fresh one for the bus up the hill to school. There is nothing particularly remarkable about pineapple buns--squishy white bread with a sweet, crunchy topping--nor do they taste like pineapple. (We kept buying them from different bakeries when we first moved here, determined to find one that actually tasted like the name. Then we realized the name is all about the visual--but of course! They look exactly like pineapples, don't you think?) They are often served in little cafes with an insanely thick slice of butter inside--I was sure the many pictures we saw on menus actually showed cheese until we bought one. Sure enough, it's a butter sandwich they serve.

So why do I write about this bun I've never attempted to recreate at home? (Though if I was to try, I would go in the direction of the Mexican "pan dulce" rolls.) Pineapple buns are one of those things--like milk tea, like "pork chop crispy bun", like egg tarts--that are so iconically Hong Kong we just might end up sighing over them, wanting them more when we're a million miles away than when they fuel every morning. Which is exactly why they are fueling so many mornings right now, and why I've drunk more milk tea (or more colorfully, "pantyhose tea") in recent months than in our first two years.

It's not a glorious food experience, to be sure. But it is right now, and that's good enough for me. 

P :: HK Post

There is much to love about the HK Post. Surprisingly low prices, for one. You can mail any size envelope all over Hong Kong for $1.40 (about $.18 US). And a letter back to the US is only $3.00 (or $.38 US). But more than that, I love it that packages are still wrapped in paper and tied up with string. I love it that they still use stamps that have to be licked (though a Hong Konger would never lick a stamp), and that the postal clerk scribbles the various stamp amounts on a piece of scrap paper, then totals it on a calculator for me. I love it that he then flips though an old notebook with cardboard dividers to find all the various denominations of stamp needed, and that sometimes an envelope will end up half-covered with stamps. I love it for its surprising simplicity in a city that is surging ever forward, fast-paced and high tech. I love it in the same way that I love seeing a delivery man carrying fuel tanks on a bike, or a construction worker carting debris in woven wicker baskets, or a park maintenance person sweeping with a branch broom. And maybe I am romanticizing these bits of nolstalgia--but the anachronisms delight me, jolt me into awareness, and remind me that always, always, there is more than one way to get a job done. 

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