• Katherine Qiao

Day 5: Strawberry Hibiscus



The tart flavor sketches rainbows in my mouth as my tongue swirls over the expanse of my upper jaw, chasing the last bits of crumb and cream cheese still unswallowed (and a few micro-crumbs at the crinkles of my lips). Within seconds, all remnants of the bundt cake from “Atelier’s Pattissiere” down the street from the new apartment are gone. Too quickly gone, I mourn internally. Still, the remaining sweetness of the hibiscus sugar and glaze are still present, and that, I mull over as I continue the trek down the quiet winding street towards the village shopping center.

Sawtelle wasn’t a village per say, but amongst the larger cityscape of Los Angeles, it often felt like one. Tons of busybodies to be found there everyday, all day, for sure, but everything was on the 2nd floor or lower or older buildings. Older Asian ladies milled around for grocery discounts in the local Japanese market hidden partially underground against a sloping mountain, while their toddlers in pastel outfits and bowl cut hairstyles trailed behind on those shopping trips, preoccupied (or coerced) with sugary crepe and taiyaki pastries to snack on. The little bakeries where the mothers had bought the snacks from, just a hop, step, and jump away from the markets, were the same familiar haunts to older people in their mid-20s and 30s. They frequented those grounds for little coffee get-togethers and nervous, shy first dates - the sweet flavors a distraction and a compliment both to the touch of quieter society Sawtelle brought to the greater Los Angeles area.

I compare this often to the streets of Beijing near my family home, when my mother used to take me trailing through for hot buns and fried dumplings prepared fresh in the miniature street carts scattered across the veranda. That was the extent of the good memories before everything turned sour, and everything turned clinical and money-like.