Heart coos at me. She is growing up so quickly, becoming plump with my milk and care. Her blue eyes gaze at me. I am the only person she knows.
Kechil, Sa’s skinny ma, whinnies and stamps his front hoof. He is eager to go too.
“You ready?” Sa takes the reins. Sa is wearing the familiar grey turban and shawl again. Green eyes and grey fabric. I am no different myself, having fashioned a brown scarf to cover my face and neck. I make sure Heart is shielded from the sun too.
This time, we head towards the cluster of hills known as Kore. We need water and better shelter. And food. Sa’s fenugreek is running out. The dirty clothes need washing. I feel filthy, my hair oily and stringy. Suddenly, I want to go home. Back to the sea. To Shu and the rest.
“I am ready,” I lie and settle down for a long rocky journey.
Kore is windswept and desolate. Yet I can see signs of a former settlement. Regular stone structures, faint indentations on the earth showing straight lines. Moss and lichen have covered roads. Beside a crumbled wall a large stream flows unfettered, gurgling merrily.
The fragrance of brown rice tea laces the air. I inhales appreciatively. It comes from the field of herbs in the center of the settlement. With Heart on my hip, I kneel down, caressing the tips of the thistle-like herbs with my fingers. The thistles are bulbous, the purplish-green buds as big as my clenched fist. Layers of hooked petals make them look formidable.
“This can be eaten by peeling off the petals,” Sa joins me, squatting down and slapping sar thighs. “Yam-tasting heart. But not too much. You fart a lot. This planet isn’t that welcoming. ”
Later we discover that the stream has fish. “Thorn-tail,” Sa describes the silverish shapes darting about. “Good to eat grilled.”
“Fresh water too,” I taste the water. It is sweet and cold.
“From the mountains. Here, the Ridge!” Sa points eagerly.
“I have friends who live there,” I say and leave it at that.
Sa watches me with sar eyes. “You have many secrets.”
“So do you.”
Laughter bursts from Sa’s mouth. Har-har-har. The echo rings sharp. “We have food, in some fashion. Come, let’s pitch the tents. Kechil needs feeding too.”
“The earth trembles,” Sa declares to me after we have feasted on grilled fish and boiled flower buds. A pile of fish bones and petals scraped thin by teeth waits to be cleared and buried in the ground. The hearts of the buds taste like the boiled Midautumn yam. Sweet and delicious. Sar somehow managed to find some black vinegar and we used it as a dip.
I glance at sar. “You are earth magic. You should know.”
Sa’s face darkens a little. “I don’t trust myself.”
I stifle my sarcastic answer and rock Heart to sleep instead.
Steamed Flower Buds
1. Remove the layer of ‘petals’ at least 1 or 2cm. [This layer is hard and fibrous and should be removed]
2. Steam in pot – place buds upright.
3. Cook for 45 mins, depending on fire.
4. Serve with melted butter or vinegar dip. [Important: remove thistles (they make you cough) before you eat the soft yam-like heart]
5. Use teeth to scrap off the base of petal.
[* flower buds = Terran artichokes]