among the small pleasures of living in the tropics are the early mornings, which happen between the moment when the sky begins imperceptibly to lighten and the moment when the sun begins to cast a long and sharp-edged shadow—the word gloaming indicates this precise period. in this cool and dimness, small children stumble to primary school. most everyone who grew up here remembers waking before the sky was fully light, then sitting blearily at the kitchen table and trying to finish breakfast. which might have been (or maybe still is) milo or horlicks, a perfectly square slice of soft white bread from gardenia* or a misshapen slice from a loaf bought from the bread man with his tin box on the back of his bike, and a gelatinous soft-boiled egg with dark soy sauce and finely-ground white pepper. the longer it took to eat the vile jelly, the more it would congeal, turning after about 20 minutes into a particularly sticky and homogeneous brown gloop shot through with the chalazae. finally done with breakfast, you would inevitably be just late enough that the walk or bus ride (or, if extra lucky, the car ride) to school would be fraught, full of the nagging fear of being late and Getting a Demerit.
but if, like me, you are back home at a particularly loose end and school is at least a week and 11000 air miles away, then early mornings in these tropics are unmitigated pleasures. the air is still cool and damp, and breezes come in the window from the patch of jungle across the street. sometimes there is a paper filled with inconsequential news, to slowly page through. this week, there is a small-ish jar of kaya somewhere in the fridge, to be spread on toast. occasionally, when the filter can be found, there is coffee made from beans butter-roasted in a wok over charcoal.
* the jingle they used in tv ads from 1996 through 2001 is still in my head. the vaunted all-american recipe is probably stolen from interstate bakeries, makers of wonderbread. it makes me wonder why they couldn't have stolen a recipe from, say, the acme bread co. instead.
all through the night
while everyone's in bed
gardenia bakery's hard at work
baking our daily bread
only the best goes in
it's prepared specially
with ingredients from an all-american
[dum dum] recipe!