Chinese Sweetie – Encouragement In A Can

Every person has that one special treat. You know the one. When you eat it, it calms you, encourages you, comforts you, and feels like an embrace wrapped in happy memories. It might be something you’ve had only once; or, it could be something you would have on special occasions. Either way, it’s a treat that if you were to indulge in it right now, you would undoubtedly melt into your chair and close your eyes to savor each bite. It would make you smile – not the big cheesy kind, the “I remember something lovely” kind.

As a kid, our special treat was ice cream. It had to be Baskin Robbins and was almost always mint chocolate chip for me & rum raisin for mom. In Ireland, it was 99s – A lovely soft serve vanilla ice cream on a cone with a Cadbury’s 99 Flake bar inserted at a 45-degree angle. When I was older, Mom and I would share a small container of Godiva Dark Chocolate Raspberry Truffle! Amazing! I really love ice cream – my favorite these days is Häagen Dazs Rum Raisin, and if I feel like I really need a hug, I get a tiny container and eat it one bite at a time throughout the week.

Some years back my husband and I were talking about the treats we loved growing up, and the only two he had never been able to find here in the states were a Jamaican apple and this treat he called Chinese Sweetie. I did what any reasonable person would do; I googled them. Much to my chagrin, there was nothing. I did a deep dive and found someone’s private Facebook page where they mentioned Chinese Sweetie along with a comment about not being able to find them here. I dug and dug until I found a place in Hawaii that seemed to have something similar, but since I do not read Chinese, I was only guessing. I ordered two bags – the only flavors they had and hoped for the best. (Incidentally, I googled them both again for this post and there is now a plethora of information about both)

When the package arrived, my husband was beaming with excitement. He tasted the first kind, and it was not at all the right taste – all sweet – no sour. The second bag was close but only close. I searched some more but came up empty. It had become a mission for me now – I wanted so much to get them for him. One evening he asked me to pick up Chinese food for dinner, I printed out a picture from that one Facebook page and brought it with me. After I ordered I asked the owner if she knew what the image was and explained my dilemma – it’s sweet and very sour, but I don’t know where to get it. Do you know of any place I could try? She thought about it and told me that she thought they would be in China Town where she shopped for supplies. She believed it was a “walking plum”. Smiling, she told me that she had just come back from a trip home to China, and reaching below the counter she brought out a small bag of fresh walking plums and gave them to me. They weren’t prepared the same, but he might like them she said. I thanked her profusely and went home. They were delicious and definitely similar, but once again, not quite right.

Maybe a month later we ordered Chinese food for dinner and when I opened the bag, right on top with a bright red bow, was a container of Chinese Sweetie. I could have cried. I ran into the room to show my husband. I could tell from the moment he popped the first one in his mouth that this was the one. His face relaxed, his eyes closed and rolled back under their lids, and a smile crept up to his ears as his head lolled back. I called the store immediately and told her she had made our day, “OK my friend,” she said as she hung up the phone.

For a variety of reasons, we haven’t ordered Chinese food in a long time. We’ve had a rough time of late, and my husband was feeling particularly discouraged this day. Having been in bad shape for a few days and unable to cook at all for a few days, I decided to order Chinese for dinner. Hello, my friend, she said when she heard my voice. When the knock came at the door I took our bag, paid and then the delivery man pulled a bright red gift bag from behind his back, handed it to me, smiled, and waved goodbye. Inside were five different bottles of Chinese Sweetie. If that wasn’t amazing enough, I opened the bag of food, and there was a package of cookies for my kids.

When I brought the gift bag to my husband; tears threatened to invade his eyes. Man, he mumbled, that makes me feel good. This gives me hope. He popped one in his mouth, his eyes closed, his head lolled, and he smiled.

Who knew so much encouragement could come in a can? I’m pretty sure I love her – she runs a Happy Garden indeed.

Ecclesiastes 4: 9&10 Two are better than one because they have a good return for their work; If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up.

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