we went to 鎮公所, 所長said I could try Wei Wei Jia for some voluntary work. She rang up the bosses and said I could go.
This picture was taken on the way up to Wei Wei Jia. The significance lies in the old man’s pace. His bike was full of stuff. His pace? A baby could craw faster than he did. But then again it is down slope, so its understandable. He would at least be 80 years old I guess. He looked at me on my way up, and then I turned around to take a picture of him without him noticing. But isn’t this Hsinpu? A town that lives on its on pace! I met the boss, and he assigned me to Er Jie.
She taught me how to dig out the branch and small leaves of the persimmons, that is the first process of the whole persimmon cake job. Its not difficult, but its hard to maintain a steady pace. I guess its just like any other job, practice makes perfect. There was an 80 years old women who was doing this job. My speed compared to her was like 4 to 1.
The whole objective of the process was to prevent the branches from injuring the hands of people who were going to massage the persimmons. These persimmons are very raw, they are plucked directly from the tree because a ripe one would be mashed. That is why mashed ones are also thrown away.
Then I got two popsicles, some tourists came by and started talking, said if I was Er Jie’s child, the wife said yes, the husband said no. He said I was too good looking, and Er Jie didn’t have money to go elsewhere to find a husband. The old man heard I was from Malaysia, and said he once had a lover in Malaysia, but he was poor and the girl dumped him. And said if I knew a Taiwanese TV host who married to Malaysia, I’ve never heard of the name nor do I remember it now. But then it turned out the host actually went to Indonesia, not Malaysia. And I argued with him that Taiwanese girls are more pretty than Malaysians.
So yeah. Then, I got to peel them. The skins of the persimmon are used to make colors for the dying process, and also as fertilizers, natural huh. Which is why the machining process is important. It is also very easy, and very imaginative.
The reason I said that is because the peeling is done by a small dragon/snake head like blade which turns from right to left while the persimmon is rotating.
The process actually looked like the dragon/snake head was eating up the skin of the persimmon. And then it dropped and rolled itself to another plate where hand peelers clean up the persimmon for what the machines failed to. It’s a fun process. Er Jie said its awesome, so fun that she always thought of giving visiting children a chance to play. Then I got to heavier stuffs. Massaging.
Massagings are done from the 3rd day onwards, once a day, and then they are dried again. Up until the 8th day. Usually we do it on the floor, but for the sake of experience(體驗), I did it on a table, standing. It requires putting the thumb over the persimmon and pressed it. It should not break and spilled out. The purpose was to eject the 丹田 to the side, I guess its crushing, so that it changes into Glucose.
Obviously, this process could be done by a machine, but because each persimmon are of different hardness, manual work retains the flexibility of the force applied, and ensuring each and every persimmon is spongy and tastes good (Q).
Furthermore, this is also an inspection stage, whereby rotten persimmons are thrown away. To know if its good, one has to smell it. Fermentation of the fruits causes them to smell like alcohol. And that is the sign of a rotten fruit.
Otherwise, one would just smell the cloth glove. The reason this is a man’s job is because women would be too soft, the fruits that they massaged would be identical to those which haven’t. The chief, Brother Teng, his value lies in he could tell how old those persimmons are by looking at them, and how he could press those persimmons by one hand. I did it with both. Speed, accuracy, experience.
You can’t buy those things, and machines don’t give you that too. Then there is this room, warm room for bacteria killing. I was shown to this by brother teng’s sidekick. I asked him what it was and all he asked me to do was rearranging the signs.
And its another cosy afternoon, free ripe persimmons for visitors. Wei Wei Jia are usually super busy on weekends and holidays, so these are special treats on weekdays, when they have time for us.
Manual. Tradition. Values. Sweat. Business. Passion. Love. Its in every single persimmon cakes that Wei Wei Jia sells. And by the time I left, it was already dark.