Gearing up for mooncake madness
Updated: 2014-09-05 13:55
By Clare Buchanan(Shanghai Star)
I love Chinese festivals. I not only enjoy the extra holiday time, but I like learning the story and meaning behind each occasion, joining in the celebratory customs and most of all tucking into the traditional treats associated with each event.
Armed with my usual enthusiasm I began reading up about the quickly approaching Mid- Autumn Festival, which falls on Sept 8 this year.
The story of the "moon fairy", which I was taught at primary school in Hong Kong, quickly came back to me and stirred up childhood memories of munching on mooncakes. Eager to taste the round, flaky pastries filled with egg and lotus-seed paste once again, I asked my friends where and when I would be able to get my hands on the sweet treats. The responses I got were not quite what I had expected.
Apparently I forgot to remove my rosetinted glasses when I thought about my mooncake memories. First of all, unlike most other foods in China, mooncakes are expensive. In contrast to the huge, steaming bowls of noodles I regularly gorge myself on for dinner for just 18 yuan ($2.93), a basic box of six mooncakes can set you back 100 yuan, with high-end versions closer to 400 yuan.
The majority of my friends, both Chinese and foreigners, told me they didn’t even like the taste of the traditional pastries. One particular friend told me the hefty price tag was just to convince people they taste good and said "anyone stupid enough to want to eat them deserves to pay".
Another complained the sweet cakes, which can be laden with up to 1,000 calories, ruined hours of sweaty work in the gym. Despite the general distain, several friends admitted that, come the 15th day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar, they would be visiting the bakery to buy mooncakes.
One friend told me whether you love them or hate them, presenting mooncakes to relatives and business associates was an integral part of the festival, showing respect and building relationships.