One of the great things about D and I being from such diverse backgrounds is that we can celebrate different holidays that we may otherwise not partake in. Yesterday, for me, that holiday was the Mid-Autumn Festival.
Otherwise known as the Moon Festival, the Mid-Autumn Festival is an important Chinese holiday celebrated every year to commemorate the end of summer harvesting. It is a time for families and friends to gather in reunion. People may hang or carry bright coloured lanterns, burn incense or fire dragon dances. The festival has dated back over 3000 years and parallels the autumn equinox when the moon is the biggest, roundest and brightest.
D’s family and I all gathered to admire the bright harvest moon (albeit through the blinds and in the comfort of their living room). While there were no lanterns or dragon dances, we did enjoy a meal of char sui (barbequed pork) and nibbled on on lycee, longan, and plums. Apparently pomelos are also popular choices but we didn’t have any of those on hand.
Another treat shared among family and friends during the Mid-Autumn Festival is moon cakes. Now my experience with them has been quite limited. For those of you who don’t know, moon cakes are made up of a thin pastry-like crust filled with thick lotus seed paste (or another variety) and contain the yolk/s of salted duck eggs which are supposed to represent the full harvest moon. Moon cakes are considered an indispensable delicacy. D’s family loves them.
The problem is that I had, in fact, tried them once before and strongly disliked them. The potent saltiness of the duck egg combined with the sweetness of the dense lotus filling is just too foreign for my western taste buds. It is definitely an acquired taste. But I could also recognize and respect how important eating moon cake as a family was integral in celebrating the Mid-Autumn festival. Not doing so would be considered disrespectful.
So I held my breath, popped a piece on the back of my tongue, and after minimal chewing, tried to swallow as much as possible. I wish someone had this on film because despite my efforts to be subtle, I’m sure it was hilarious. In the end I survived, managed to keep it all down, and my eyes only watered for a minute or so.
At the end of the day, I was grateful for the experience, for the opportunity to celebrate a festival on a day that would otherwise be just another Wednesday. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll become accustomed to the taste of the moon cake one day too.