May 26, 2009

Zongzi for breakfast, Zongzi for lunch...

“In ancient times, there was a man who loved our country so much that he threw himself into the river and drowned. The people were sad, so they threw zongzi into the river after him so that the fish wouldn’t eat his body.” This was the explanation I received from someone on the origins of the upcoming Dragaon Boat Festival. Thankfully, Wikipedia was on hand to fill in a few gaps for me. Apparently this man was a famous poet who was protesting corruption. Not only did the people throw zongzi into the water, but they also apparently steered boats on the surface of the water to scare the fish away from eating him… hence Dragon Boat Racing. But apparently there is some contestability to this story.

Alas, we’ve been told that Dragon Boat Racing is a thing of the past and that the only thing done to celebrate is eat zongzi on a three day weekend. Last week, Aiyi gifted us with some homemade zongzi and then our teacher and her boyfriend also gave us some when they came for supper on Saturday. So it looks like we will be eating zongzi along with the rest of the Han Chinese this weekend.

Zongzi are hardball sized globs of glutinous rice with mystery surprises inside: could be red bean paste, could be dried fruit, could be pork fat… who knows! The whole thing is then wrapped in bamboo leaves. They present an interesting challenge to eat. Peeling off the leaves takes half of the steaming rice with it and then you use your fingers and teeth to eat the sticky mass. Inevitably your fingers get globs of sticky rice on them and then you have to shake them off, and sticky rice gets everywhere. But on the whole, not bad. I apologize that we don't seem to be able to add photos anymore. The proxy access seems to not allow that feature.

In other news, Ari is now writing the whole alphabet by himself. He is very pleased. We are planning a small birthday party for him the weekend before his birthday, with one of our Chinese friends. Since Jude has claimed the stuffed Curious George that we gave Ari for Christmas as his own, we are also planning to get him a new thing to sleep with – potentially a stuffed Woody (Toy Story) we saw for sale.

I also thought you might enjoy an example of how Chinese is sometimes not the most subtle language. I was telling my teacher that when I was pregnant I gained 30lbs (13-14kg). The sentence is Wo you haizi de shihou, wo pang le 13-14 gong jin. Literally translated “I pregnant time, I became fat 13-14kg”. There is no subtle, nice way of saying “I gained weight”, no “I became 13 kgs fat”!

By the way, just in case anyone wanted to hear James tell about the Canadian French and Indian Wars in Chinese, never fear! He did the whole thing in Chinese for his teacher the other day… I’m sure he could reproduce it! If he’s ever in a crunch and really needs to communicate with Chinese people, he’ll always have this wild card!


derrydown said...

I had to laugh about the French and Indian Wars. James' line for random obscure topics was "Speaking about the Ottomans..." Telling it in Chinese is just one giant step more bizarre.

Oh, I sent Ari a box of puppets that will go with his dress-up costumes, and of course, then found the policeman at the bottom of the box. Really YMCA! I'll send it on.

The Freys said...

Oooo! I'm thinking he will love it!