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La Crème de la Kem

This poem is about the history of the beloved European dessert, "flan." This dessert travelled over to Southeast Asia during colonization, and gained popularity among many people. This poem is a part of a series called milk will not sửa me; a series which focuses on the consumption of milk, and its effects upon the Southeast Asian mind and body.

Huynh, Lenora (A Photograph of an Imperfect Flan, 2019)

Inspired by the idioms, la crème de la crème and the cream of the crop, I incorporated them into my poetry as a way to convey the popularity of flan. Both of these idioms are used to describe something as being the best. This beloved European dessert became known in many countries around the world due to colonization. While the history of flan is not so sweet, its creamy caramel flavour won over many sweet tooths across Southeast Asia.

As a brief history lesson, I would like to mention that flan was created during the Roman Empire, with eels. Thankfully, the Spaniards created their own version with cream and caramelized sugar. Soon after, the dessert took off by storm across Europe, particularly in countries such as France and England. Eventually, it reached to Latin America, and the dessert became well loved for its tastiness.

Although in my opinion, the introduction of flan within Southeast Asia was quite distasteful. When there was the Spanish rule in the Philippines, and the French rule within Vietnam, the flan became a symbol of identity; the attempt to remove and replace it.

However, Filipinx and Vietnamese adaptations allowed their people to take back their agencies. Through incorporating their own local ingredients such as coconut, they powerfully reclaim their land and identities.

la crème de la kem
is the cream of the crop.
yet i could never seem
to identify,
whether i am a fan
of the flan;
the dessert which took over
many plates of the world...
or rather,
the many palates
of the people
who feel
and feel,
for the caramel skin.
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La Crème de la Kem
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