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f/k/a archives . . . real opinions & real haiku

September 18, 2007

moon cakes and sick chickens

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 12:16 pm

People familiar with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome will know the term “post-exertion malaise,” which refers to a remarkable lack of vitality and energy that often comes after (sometimes a day or two after) being too active. Today’s post-Rochester PEM is just the excuse I needed to keep this weblog post quick and uncontroversial.

On Saturday evening, while at the HSA meeting in Rochester, I had my first moon cake since I was introduced to them by my friend Yu Chang (electrical engineering professor, Schenectadian, backyard culinary and bocce wiz, and venerable haiku poet) two years ago. It got me thinking about the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival, during which families traditionally celebrate by eating moon cakes, and wondering when that Festival would take place this year. It is customarily celebrated on “the fifteenth day of the eighth moon,” around the time of the autumn equinox. A quick stop at Google News told me the date falls on September 25th this year (and that the Mid-Autumn Festival will be celebrated in Toronto on September 27 and 28).

By coincidence, it was exactly two years ago today that I wrote “families and moon cakes — the Mid-Autumn Festival” here at f/k/a. The post gives a little taste of the history and nature of the Festival. Moon cakes are described at a linked website:

“The round moon cakes, measuring about three inches in diameter and one and a half inches in thickness, resembled Western fruitcakes in taste and consistency. These cakes were made with melon seeds, lotus seeds, almonds, minced meats, bean paste, orange peels and lard. A golden yolk from a salted duck egg was placed at the center of each cake, and the golden brown crust was decorated with symbols of the festival. Traditionally, thirteen moon cakes were piled in a pyramid to symbolize the thirteen moons of a ‘complete year,’ that is, twelve moons plus one intercalary moon.”

[Editor’s note: To be honest, I do not think “Chinese” when I think “great desserts,” and the moon cakes I’ve eaten to date have not changed my mind. I’m sure, nonetheless that, when lovingly made fresh by your own Mother, moon cakes can be a taste delight and source of festive joy. update (Sept. 26, 2007): See “In China, a Moon Cake Makeover: For Mid-Autumn Festival, Bakers Replace Traditional Fillings With Trendier Fare,” Washington Post, Sept. 26, 2007 (hat tip to Roberta Beary)]

If you are a hard-news fanatic who prefers your f/k/a with a dash of current-events, let me point you to today’s Bloomberg Report, China Closes Poultry Markets to Contain Bird Flu (Sept. 18, 2007), which quotes Zhou Bohua, director of China’s State Administration of Industry and Commerce, who explained that China has closed live poultry markets in major cities and in parts of the country where avian flu has been detected to contain the spread of the disease, the director of industry and commerce said today. The poultry shortage might put a crimp in some Festival activities, but those worried about the safety of other Chinese foods got some good news about moon cakes:

Separately, Zhou said 99 percent of moon cakes tested in China passed the country’s safety and quality standards. Moon cakes, filled with a sweet paste made from red beans and lotus seeds, are usually consumed to mark the Mid Autumn festival in September on the Lunar calendar.

“We now need to make sure that 100 percent of the moon cakes stay within their shelf life and carry certificates of production,” Zhou said today without elaborating.

According to, “People in different parts of China have different ways to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival.” Here’s where I’d like to be:

In Guangzhou in South China, a huge lantern show is a big attraction for local citizens. Thousands of differently shaped lanterns are lit, forming a fantastic contrast with the bright moonlight.

    Moon lanterns at Beijing’s Lugou Bridge [larger, in color, from WashPost, by China Photos/Getty Images]

Here, reprised from our 2005 posting, are three poems from Yu Chang that help set the tone for the Mid-Autumn Festival:

cutting the moon cake
just like my mother
Mid Autumn Festival

overseas phone call
we talk about
the moon

full moon time to go home ChinaMoonN

………………………………… by yu chang
“cutting the moon cake” – Upstate Dim Sum 2002/I
“overseas phone call” – Upstate Dim Sum 2004/I
‘full moon’ – Upstate Dim Sum 2001/II

A highlight for me of the HSA Meeting was getting to spend time with and around poet Tom Clausen. Tom is often celebrated for his depiction of family life. Here are two recent senryu by him from Simply Haiku and two tanka from his 2006 publication Growing Late:

over an hour now
she’s tried
different shoes

when she’s not looking
I switch

so many chances
in a day
to say something to you
but here it is
growing late

everywhere I see signs
of life and death
in the balance —
how good my feet feel
out of their shoes

………………….. by Tom Clausen
“so many chances” & “everywhere”- “Growing Late” (Snapshots Press, 2006, order form)
“over an hour now” & “when she’s not looking” – Simply Haiku (Autumn 2007, senryu)

autumn equinox–
biting into
the last moon cake

…………. by dagosan

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