Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Autumn means Mooncakes


Remember Neopets? Well, I was obsessed with it as a tween, and my username was sophisticatedly called 'autumnwine' (never mind that I was underage and I thought wine was poetic and ~cool~) and my mother had to pull me away to take mandated breaks.

And that was pretty much my only link to autumn growing up, and 99% of the time I led a pretty privileged life in air-conditioned rooms listening to Avril Lavigne on my CD player...

Growing up in a country near the equator meant that we had one see-sawing season: hot, sweltering days with Paddle Pops or heavy torrential rain during the monsoon season which always smells like wet grass and stale dewdrops.



中秋节
MID-AUTUMN FESTIVAL

But what my hot and humid autumns did mean were mooncakes. Round shaped, red bean-paste filled, sugary and savoury, (from the salted egg yolks if you had one!) and coated with tangy and thick-skinned pasty goodness. 

Matt had no clue what mooncakes were when we got together but found the name extremely cute, so I have a handy Google image link of what an actual mooncake is for you here! You may recoil at my description of it but think of it as an eccentric doughnut, but much more decadent and filling. My favourite is the one with a modern twist, and it's called the snow-skinned mooncake.

In school, much like the Western world, there was a lot of mythology in storytelling – the power to beguile and mystify young children with tales beyond imagination and excitement. And magic, always magic.

So I'm here to tell you that one story...



嫦娥奔月
CHANG'ER FLIES TO THE MOON

A chilling tale and so the story goes: of Chang'Er whose beauty was beyond ordinary and her husband Hou Yi, a skilled archer. They were mortals on earth, but one day the gods raged and 10 scorching suns appeared in the sky. Being the talented man he is, Hou Yi shot down 9 of the suns, and the crops soon returned to abundances, rivers started to flow once more and the earth kept giving. 

The emperor presented Hou Yi a pill of immortality as a reward for saving the people. But plot twist, Chang'Er was jealous of the possibility of her husband living forever without her and took the pill for her own. 

Unbeknownst to both, she began to drift towards the heavens, where she was destined to live forever as a moon goddess as punishment for her greed. Separated from his wife, the mortal Hou Yi was left behind on earth alone. 

The gods were slightly sympathetic, and let them meet once year, where they reunite on the fullest of moon, looking back at earth where their lives could have been. 


Moral of the story: sharing and caring is the way to go and don't try to take immortality on by yourself, I guess. As a child however, we were fascinated by these tales – they depicted surreal images that were far more interesting than our maths and proverbs homework (yes I had to memorise Chinese proverbs). It also symbolised an important turning point every year, that harvest, was here.

Gather, foray and harvest, and ultimately the final homecoming of loved ones under the brightest and roundest of moons. A season of familial and romantic love, where lovers stroll the street to wish for a good future and families come together to moongaze (赏月) and eat mooncakes. And that was my version of autumn between the ages of 5 and 15, greedily eyeing up the varieties of mooncakes that were on display and wanting them all.

And then I'd end up with a tummy ache because it was too sweet and I ate too much...

I hope you enjoyed this small capsule of my childhood and the exciting season that is mid-autumn festival, may you be round and happy because how else would you want to be?



GARSONS ESHER 

Here, so far away from home, we decided to do some harvesting of our own. I'd never been to a pick-your-own before and thanks to my last-minute Googling 'farms near London' we hopped on a train to to charming Esher where Garsons calls themselves the largest PYO farm in the UK with 150 acres of crops. They are, it seems, open all year round too. 

We were there at the end of season so most of the crops were gone by then, but the maize field were golden and marvellously ablaze and that's where we shot most of these wonderful photos as a little memento :-) 

I spent the rest of our time picking fresh veg: courgettes, French beans, some apples and corn of course! They were all delicious for the dinners we made for the week. 

Garsons
Winterdown Road
Esher KT10 8LS



There's something to be said about being in the fields and getting your own crops, and it was something that I treasured a lot. It was fun, but it was also meaningful - it was a closure of sleepy summer finally dozing off, and into the swing of sienna leaves and homemade squash soup.

I'm a big believer of things coming full circle and the inkling of rust on the trees is no clearer reminder. As these colder and wetter days keep knocking on our doors, I remember the hearty and handsome harvest; and most importantly, the warmth of those surrounding us who makes us feel immortal without the need of immortality.

Now, pass me the mooncake!



Needless to say, work is keeping me busy but there may be a light at the end of the tunnel soon. I've got some exciting weekends lined up with some of old friends, and new ones (!) so the change of season in a country other than my own doesn't seem so bad :-) how have you been? Have you tried mooncake? Talk to me!

PS - more Japan travel posts to come soon, and you can catch up on all the existing ones here.

(I wrote this post as part of this week's #TheBlogRace project brought to you by Laila and Vix and guest judge Helen; and I hope it filled you with good memories of autumn as it did with me. If you loved this, and all my genius storytelling so far (c'mon guys hehe), keep your eyes peeled on the weekend for Laila and Vix's twitter where you can vote for me, and share your love for the other equally lovely people taking part in it)

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