When that someone is a market stallholder in a border town poor enough to be fanning the flies off their few remaining pieces of pig bits with a plastic bag on a bamboo stick, that’s really special.
That the present was fresh lotus seeds, straight from the flowerhead, put this into stellar territory for me.
Imagine a food stuff, entirely fresh and entirely natural, which is as much fun to remove from its green home as bubblewrap is to pop, with a taste like fresh almonds crossed with macadamias but a crisp, clean texture which is of the water not the earth.
That’s lotus seeds.
The seed-head is a sage green, spongy, truncated cone, with open pores from which protrude the green tips of young seeds in varying stages of ripeness and the black dead casings of those which have let their burden go.
You pull the sponge away from the seeds, pop them out of their resting places, nip off the top of the green casing, then squeeze the pale white seed from the skin.
The crisper seeds contain within them, virtually fully formed, a bitter green and curling shoot. (You split the seed and cast these out.)
So our new friend in Koh Kong market gave us one seedhead, saw we liked it, then forced two more on us.
And we stood there, talking in the roughly fifteen words of three languages we had in common and the universal language of women with children, and eating lotus seeds, while Z clowned with a grass broom from the stall and the local kids in their bright white shirts skipped home from school, grinning hello as they walked past.