You notice the cinnabar spheres first. They seduce you, with their glittering caramel surfaces, dripping and dripping with the viscous syrup. They hang off the branches invitingly, like glittering Christmas baubles. Lured by their spell, you hold them gently, letting the sticky surface softly caress the surface of your palm. It is an explosion of sweetness at first, but then the marvelous tart sour of the apple bites in, and you’re left in a sublime world of titillating taste buds.
But of course, the smell of burnt sugar tempts you. You take a few hurried steps from the candied apples and stand face to face with the crème brulee. They are encased in tiny satin paper cups; rich delicacies shielded with thin robin-blue. The vendor hands you one, with the tiniest of knowing winks, and watches you intently as you taste gold. You push the plastic spoon into the cup, breaking the fine layer of brown sugar, and dipping it into the beautiful cream. The layers mingle with passion, and your eyes open wide in amazement. The flavours wash over you like the silkiest velvet. As politely as you can, you savour the rest of the dessert, hand the money over and waltz away. You jerk your head slightly back in amazement, in wonder, hunting for the vendor across the concrete quadrangle. He has vanished, leaving you with a twinge of regret, and grandeur upon your tongue.
The chilly draft scoops over your nose, bringing with it chocolatey nuances. You rest your hands on the cold hard metal railings, and feel the ice bite into your bones. You’re becoming more and more unsettled. Your heart feels like it has frozen from the cold and you’re desperate for something, anything, solid. Solid, so you can cling on to its security. You quickly stuff your hands into your heavy coat pockets, only to find a child staring at you from below. She looks around seven or six, peering at you with that mild glow children seem to acquire unsuspectingly. She holds out her hand.
She leads you gently, round sugar tulips and chocolate roses and lilac meringues hanging off boughs of thick heavy muscovado sugar. The grains of sugar are like rain falling from the sky, complementing the vertical parade of flowers from the branches. They fall like cherry blossoms into your open palms, and each and every single one is perfectly formed and they almost sparkle with intense happiness.
And what next?
What could be more beautiful and perfect than this?
The girl hands you a bowl. It is filled with the hot soup of your childhood dreams. No sugar graces this concoction, but it brims with natural sweetness. It is savoury, and it is the taste of intangible feelings condensing into something so real that you cannot forget it. As it floods through your mouth, it brings you back down to earth, with salty hints springing around your tongue. You look up, and your mother is standing there, with a smile on her face and asks you,
“So, is the soup good?”
Why? Because nothing tastes sweeter than coming home to love.