Last night, I went to pick up dinner at Pho Saigon, a wonderful local Vietnamese place. As I waited for my order, Kay, one of the owners, came up to me with a little dish. "Would you like some food?" she asked. I gratefully took it, even though I had no idea what it was. There was a scoop of what looked like pale green rice, with a couple of large potato-like chunks on top, covered with a thick white sauce.
It turned out to be sweet rice and coconut milk. The chunks were taro. The combination was surprising and soothing all at once. It reminded me of the rice with milk and sugar that my mom would make for me when I was sick; the taro added a starchy, slightly savory counterpoint.
When I went up to the counter to thank Don and Kay, they told me it was a traditional Vietnamese dessert. Sometimes, they said, the taro is replaced by corn. The dessert isn't on the menu, Don told me, but sometimes Kay feels like making it. I was so touched that they shared their treat with me; such a sweet and unexpected moment of communion.