With the Mid-Autumn Festival just days away, the supermarket was bustling. It was my first time accompanying my mother to buy mooncakes. There were shelves upon shelves of colorful mooncake tins. Bright red lanterns decorated the aisle, while Chinese music blared in the background.
I watched my mother peruse the selection of mooncakes, picking up one tin and then another, until she found ones she liked.
“We’ll get eight to give as gifts,” said my mother, “and we’ll get an extra one — just for us. You pick that one.” She smiled at me.
The decision was easy. I chose the most ornately decorated tin, which featured the Moon Goddess and her white rabbit.
My mother suggested waiting until the day of the festival to eat the mooncakes, but I could not wait. Eager for a taste, I gave in to temptation and snuck one out of the tin. After all, I reasoned, there would still be three left for everyone else.
The first bite was sweet and delicious, and within minutes, I had devoured the entire cake. Not long after, however, nausea set in, the sickly feeling of having eaten something too sweet.
My mother found me and chuckled. “Mei-Ying, did you really finish that yourself? That’s not how you eat a mooncake.”
There’s a right way to eat a mooncake? I thought to myself. Honestly, I did not want to think about mooncakes anymore.
Days later, the Mid-Autumn Festival was upon us. After a hearty dinner with family, we gathered together for mooncakes.
“Mei-Ying, this is how you eat a mooncake,” my mother said, as she brought out the cakes. She cut one in half.
“The egg yolk in the center of the cake,” my mom continued, “represents the full moon we see in the sky tonight.”
Set against the darkness of the red bean filling, it certainly did look like a moon floating in the night sky.
“Mooncakes taste best when shared,” my mother continued, now slicing the cake. “Cut it into several small pieces, so that there is enough for everyone. Eat it with a strong cup of tea to balance out the sweetness.”
There was so much meaning in the act of eating mooncakes that I was unaware of. Sharing a mooncake with loved ones is symbolic of familial unity, which is at the heart of the holiday.
I ate my slice of the mooncake and sipped some tea. Paired together, it really was delicious.
Happy Mid-Autumn Festival.
This post is also available in: Chinese