Monday, August 19, 2013

Harvest Moon Cakes at Costco

I saw a young Asian woman looking at the Harvest Moon Cake tins in Costco; she seemed surprised and happy to see them there. 

"Are those any good?" I asked.

"Oh, they're wonderful.  I grew up with these." Pausing, she looked at me.  "They might be an acquired taste though."

Moon Cakes, I learned, are traditionally given to friends and family on the occasion of the Harvest Moon Festival, one of the four most important holidays in China (this year, September 19-21). The cakes are very complicated to make, so are usually a bakery product.   Auspicious words in Chinese are formed on the tops; the cakes contain bean or seed paste, and salted hard egg yolks to mimic the harvest moon.

The Joy Luck Palace Moon Cake tin at Costco contains 4 cakes; each cake has double salted egg yolks and lotus seed paste.

It's true, the taste is different, but for an interesting cross-cultural experience, celebrating the Moon Festival seems like a great adventure.  I learned by experience to cut the cakes in wedges so everyone gets part of the "moons".

I've ordered Round is a Moon Cake, a children's picture book, and will share the Moon Cake story and the Harvest Moon Festival with my granddaughters.

I love Costco for carrying things like this.

Here's a famous poem about the Moon Festival from poet Su Shi, (1039-1112). I don't particularly get a connection to festivals or cakes, but there you go.

The Moon Festival

Bright moon, when was your birth? (明月几时有)
Winecup in hand, I ask the deep blue sky;(把酒问青天) 
Not knowing what year it is tonight (不知天上宫阙)
In those celestial palaces on high. I long to fly on the wind, (今夕是何年,我欲乘风归去) 
Yet dread those crystal towers, those courts of jade,(又恐琼楼玉宇)
Freezing to death among those icy heights! (高处不胜寒)
Instead I rise to dance with my pale shadow;(起舞弄清影) 
Better off, after all, in the world of men.(何似在人间) 
Rounding the red pavilion,(转朱阁) 
Stooping to look through gauze windows,(低绮户)
She shines on the sleepless.(照无眠)
The moon should know no sadness;(不应有恨) 
Why, then, is she always full when dear ones are parted? (何事长向别时圆)
For men the grief of parting, joy of reunion,(人有悲欢离合)
Just as the moon wanes and waxes, is bright or dim:(月有阴晴圆缺)
Always some flaw and so it has been since of old.(此事古难全)
My one wish for you, is long life,(但愿人长久)
And a share in this loveliness far, far away! (千里共婵娟)

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