Monday, September 15, 2008

All Moon Cakes, All the Time

One of the aspects of life abroad I've been looking forward to ever since we originally got the word from Fulbright was living through a cycle of holidays that is quite different from what we are used to in the US. I've imagined myself walking down the street to Christmas Mass while the rest of Beijing goes about its business like any other day. I've informed the kids that they will be going to school on Thanksgiving Day. And I've had all kinds of happy thoughts about the lack of over-the-top displays come Halloween season. (I would bet that CVS is just about now starting to get that infamous center aisle organized around candy and costumes...)

I was rudely awoken from my nice dream about two weeks ago, when moon cake displays began appearing everywhere, from shopping malls to alleyway markets. What are moon cakes? Moon cakes are these little round, highly decorated treats (great description, huh!?). They are filled with a variety of, uh, fillings (I'm still struggling, if you haven't noticed). Just take a look at the pictures...hopefully, they will give you a rough idea...

Moon cakes are the food that is traditionally given and (perhaps) eaten around the time of the Mid-Autumn Festival (also known as the...Moon Cake Festival!). It is quite an industry, preparing and selling all of these moon cakes. In anticipation of the holiday, Peking University presented me with a box of moon cakes from the Shangri La Hotel. We were told that these are the best moon cakes in all of Beijing. Each night, we have eaten one of the little treats. (In Chinese class, Z learned about the "proper" way to cut and eat moon cakes, so he has been our leader in this regard. Of course, he doesn't eat any!) With the exception of maybe one of them, the moon cakes have been good to eat. The other one I would describe as "interesting."

The Mid-Autumn Festival forms a three-day weekend, so the kids had no school this Monday. (Makes up for missing out on Labor Day this year!) As far as we can tell, the holiday is an excuse to spend time with family and friends, eating, drinking, and of course looking up at the full moon. (We are convinced that local authorities used those cloud bursting missiles they have in their arsenal. We had this killer thunderstorm last night, and then everything was as clear as can be for tonight's moon watching.) Deep down, not really much different from many of our holidays.

Up next, a week off from school around the October 1 celebration of the birth of the People's Republic of China...

~Steve

3 Comments:

At 8:14 PM, Blogger Macefamily said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 8:17 PM, Blogger Macefamily said...

Hi guys, as I read this I kept thinking about the Seinfeld episode with George's dad and the 'Festavis'.

My OCD got the best of me so I searched moon cake and came up with the following link.

http://www.renmenbi.com/it-s-moon-cake-time


What’s in a Moon Cake?

Moon cakes are always designed in a round shape to look like the moon. They were traditionally made with four egg yolks to represent the four phases of the moon. For generations, moon cakes have been made with sweet fillings of nuts, mashed red beans, lotus seedpaste or Chinese dates wrapped in pastry. Some people say they are similar to the plum puddings and fruit cakes served in the UK.

These days moon cake fillings are made with anything from fruit and nuts to Chinese sausages. Other more recent developments in the moon cake flavor business include green tea moon cakes and snow skin moon cakes (made from cooked glutinous rice flour). Even Häagen Daz has got involved in the moon cake craze, by introducing their own line of ice cream moon cakes.

Moon cakes usually come in a box of thirteen. This is to symbolize the thirteen moons of a ‘complete year’: the twelve moons and one intercalary moon.

love me

 
At 9:19 PM, Blogger The Balla Family said...

Great description! Moon cakes seem to be one of those foods that are hard to describe in few words. It's like, "I know what it is when I eat one, but I can't really tell you what I just ate." Now, why did our box come with only six? Is PKU trying to tell us something???

S

 

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