A few years ago, I came across an aspiring writer raising funds to have his first novel published through Kickstarter. In his plea, he stated: “The main character in John Fante’s novel Ask the Dust ate oranges every day until he could finally afford to eat something better. I think I can get by eating oranges. I will do what it takes.”
It jumped out at me because of what I had learnt a few weeks before from a colleague at Malaysiakini while attending my very first FOTN meeting in Kuala Lumpur. The colleague was showing us around the offices, and at the corner of one room we found a box of individually wrapped oranges. He explained to us that it is a Chinese custom to give oranges to people around you during the two weeks of Lunar New Year celebration. The oranges in this context symbolise prosperity because they look like, well, gold. Now you see the contrast in food symbolism that fascinated me.
Today I walked around with a dozen of mandarin oranges in my bag and gave them away to colleagues that I saw. It felt good. Only if they were real gold!