chinese watermelon seeds or butong pakwan

my most vivid childhood food memory concerns these tiny, salty treats. i was in the philippines for the summer, a common occurrence for me in elementary school, and i was keeping one of my elderly aunts company for the afternoon. my tita ditas (tita is the diminutive of tia, and the prefix to all of my aunt addresses) is a devout catholic, a wearer of hilariously ill-fitting wigs, and a lover of the telenovela. sitting in her room, surrounded by statues of saints, we lazily watched one episode after another. during one of the breaks, she pulled out a jar hidden behind her bed full of black seeds. having no idea what was going to happen, i was actually surprised when she offered me some to eat, demonstrating how to carefully extract the heart of meat from the salty shell. i already have a natural affinity for salty foods, like my father, and so i was immediately excited about these; i went home that day with wrinkly lips and a sodium headache.

now every time a family member comes from the philippines to visit, i always ask them to bring me these treats, and i try to be sparing in my consumption so i always have half a jar in the cupboard. i just ran out last week and no one is coming to visit until june, so i've googled and found you can buy some at my local asian market for very cheap. although, for some reason i just think they taste better having traveled halfway around the world.
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