Long ago, long before anyone can remember, in the village bakery lived sad Manto and his big brother, Baozi. Manto was always being compared to his brother.
‘Why can’t you be more like your brother?’ Croquette would ask.
‘Baozi is stuffed with delicious oils and meats, and here you are, just a plain steamed bun,’ the yo-tiaos would mock, ‘Surely, you could be just a bit more!’
‘Even if Baozi were to lose his stuffing, he would still have the taste of meat and oil, and even that would be better than a boring, steamed bun,’ Manto would hear.
‘I’m meant for great things,’ Manto would say, solemnly.
You see, Baozi would take in the limelight with vim and vigor, inflating himself with air, and pushing it out again so that all around could smell the meat and vegetables within. He didn’t mind. If anything, the more compliments he would get, the more he would show what he was made of! He was a proud little pastry, and for good reason.
Manto, on the other hand, wasn’t much to look at. Pale, fat, and not exceptionally good at sport or physical activity, Manto preferred to spend the day looking in at the other pastries playing their games hoping that one day he’d find what it took to participate. If only he could have been made with a meaty interior. If only he were blessed with some sugary jam, or been complementary with soymilk, or even just to have been glazed to be a bit more popular. If only.
One day, Baozi and Manto were sitting in the rack when Yo-tiao fell from his perch, falling straight for the dirty floor where the rats and people lived. Thinking quickly – for a hero needs such qualities - Baozi threw out a net to catch his friend. Oh, how the bakery cheered.
‘Hip hip, hurrah,’ they yelled, ‘Hip hip, hurrah!’
‘See, baby brother, all it takes is a bit of ingenuity, fast reactions, and of course not being a fat lump of dough to be a hero,’ Baozi said.
‘I’m meant for great things,’ Manto said solemnly.
So it was one late, stormy night, when two great, big red eyes appeared.
‘A rat!’ someone shrieked.
There was a flurry as cookies and cakes began to rouse from their sleep to see what the fuss was about.
The rat made its way to the top rack, where Manto and Baozi were huddled, shaking. In the dark, it was hard for the other foods to make out what exactly was happening.
Smelling the meat, the rat dashed at Baozi, hungry to tear the bun apart. Manto threw himself in front of the rat before it could reach his brother, and stood his ground. Down below, the other foods were showered with bits of bun, yet they still could not see what was happening in the melee.
With a crash, the rat dove off the rack and disappeared.
‘I’m meant for great things,’ sighed little Manto, closing his eyes.
The next morning, as the sun rose, filling the bakery with light again, the foods made their way to the top rack to check in on Baozi.
‘What a brave bun, Baozi is!’ Croquette cried, ‘he has fended off the rat from eating us all!’
Oh, how they all cheered.