VIRTUALLY HERS came out Oct. 2009. Get it at SAMHAIN Publishing. VIRTUALLY ONE coming soon.

I've also made available at Amazon BIG BAD WOLF a COS Commando book, an earlier manuscript about Killian Nicholas Langley. You can sample the first five chapters right here. EBOOK now available for KINDLE, NOOK, and at SMASHWORDS for $4.99.

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Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Reminiscing About Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year has taken up a lot of my time this week (cont.' till end of week!) and I have siblings galore visiting and to visit.  It's all great eating fun, but also not much time to do any blogging, esp. if I want to write too!

Chinese New Year is truly a grand celebration.  Not only does it usher in the new year following the lunar calendar, it also reminds us to honor the past (Ancestor Day), the present (Family Together Day), as well as the future (giving angpows, or red packets with $$$, to the young and unmarried). 

We have days dedicated to the gods: we give thanks to the King of Heaven by offering all kinds of sweet meats and brightening the night with elaborate lanterns as well as the traditional sending off and welcoming back of the Luck (Choy Sun Yeh) god as he is sent off to heaven with his mouth sealed with sweet sticky lotus cake to report on the family and then welcomed back into the house with written blessings for the year ahead.

We remember our friends on other days by visiting them with traditional foods that symbolize good fortune and happiness (red and orange colors are important).  We scared off the bad elements with lion dancing, drums, and fireworks. 

It is truly a Spring renewal time--new clothes, new things, fresh food and reunion of friends and family.  I've always loved the Chinese new year better than any of the new years in my old country, and we have four (trad. Western, Chinese, Malay, Indian)! Actually, five, if we count the very important Wesak Day for the Buddhists.

I sometimes mourned for the loss of certain traditions.  My mother was a wonderful cook, especially of Chinses traditional cakes for new year.  The sticky lotus (lin ko) cake took hours of preparation and I'd be the one stirring the thickening coconut milk while my mom did the hard stuff. 

She also was an expert with the sticky rice wrap (jung), a concoction of sticky rice, meats and nuts, wrapped in a banana leaf in a triangle, and then steamed till done.  She'd stay up all night wrapping the jung 12-per-bunch and probably did several hundreds because everyone wants a bunch.  I stuck to wiping the banana leafs and getting ready the ingredients for her because, let me tell you, wrapping the rice and meat was not easy at all.  I've tried many times and for one perfect wrap, I've at least five or six horrible-looking mutants, all loose and squashed up.  I remember my mom let me make a bunch for myself only and no one would touch them when they were cooked because they looked so bad.

Then there is the chong yuen, round sweet dough boiled in sweet water, for longevity.  My sisters and I had a lot of fun rolling hundreds of the yuen in many different sizes, some red, some green, some white, laying them out on the dining table like doughy marbles.

Some years my mom would bring out the kuih-kapit maker, a sort of crepe maker, but done over coals outside.  The batter is thick and sweet coconut milk and once it's browned, one had to quickly lift it off with nimble fingers and fold it into a fan-shaped cookie before it gets brittle.  I love kuih kapit.  My sis and friends tell me nobody makes them any more; they're found in stores, machine-made, and not tasting the same.

These are traditional cooking that have been, or will be, lost in time.  There used to be roadside and night bazaar hawkers who handmade these cakes fresh right there and then and we would eat them right there if we wanted to.  There were few bakeries during my youth, so everyone knew some old aunt or some market lady whose sweet cakes were exceptional.

I do think back to those times and wish I've paid closer attention to my mom's cooking talents.  None of my sisters know how either, so it's a lost art.  I "know" how to do certain dishes in my head, but you know, when you're one small unit, it's tough to feel the urge to buy so many ingredients, prep them, only to cook enough just for two!

Anyway, I'll be eating a traditional dinner with my siblings this week and it'll be the first time all of us are together in one place since last century! I'm sure we'll be reminiscing about mom's wonderful sweet cakes and how we suck at cooking, heh.  My sis is bringing me some kuih kapit from Malaysia, but she said it'll probably be all crumbled into 1000 pieces, but heck, I don't's kuih kapit krumps!

I can't wait.  As for a prayer to the gods, I ask for the traditional good health and success, and getting my writing back in gear in spite of the job/economy interruptus.  Yeah.

Happy New Year to my Chinese and Asian readers!  "Kong Hey Fatt Choy!"

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