I love being able to upload a photo from my phone, but what a shame I haven’t yet learned to get a title in! Webb Shaw got in a question even before I got here to tidy up, changing “Multimedia message” to the title above. “What’s a mooncake?,” he asks, and mentions that seasonal cakes where he lives in Wisconsin are yellow and green to match the colors of the Green Bay Packers.
This is the time of the Mid-Autumn Festival in China, one of the major celebrations of the year. Untold millions of mooncakes are sold during these weeks, far more, a friend speculates, than could possibly be eaten. A mooncake typically contains a sweet red bean paste, very dense, and looking rather like the bottom layer in a jar of “natural” peanut butter, where the oil has risen to the surface. Many contain salted cooked egg yolks, bright yellow contrast and a pleasant contrast in flavor–though, admittedly, a mooncake is a quite a challenge to the Western palate, not quite like anything we eat. The outside pastry is fairly soft and faintly sweet. Eaten in small slices with a cup of tea, they’re a pleasant afternoon snack. The mooncake you see here, given to me this weekend by a friend who was given it by someone who’d just arrived from Beijing, is different: it contains pale sweet shreds of something, perhaps melon, with the salted egg.
Liz Steffey, Guanxi associate editor, says that at first she would eat a whole cake at a sitting, not realizing that they weren’t like cupcakes. And when a friend was teaching in Taiwan he says that every one of his 200 students brought him a mooncake. We’ve been dreaming up ideas for the mountains of mooncakes that must remain uneaten every year. Could they be used somehow to reduce climate change?