Saturday, September 06, 2014

Mooncakes

Today's New York Times business section has an article about mooncakes, that Chinese "delicacy" that shows up each year at Chinese New Year and other celebratory events.  Read the article if you have access.  These lard based, lotus seed paste, and egg yolk concoctions are inedible by almost any measure, especially when one considers how much exceptionally good cheap food is available in real Chinatown's, like in downtown Manhattan.  The mooncakes, however, are big business despite being that most who do not eat it, generally speaking.  The article reports that in Hong Kong alone more than 1.5 million mooncakes are thrown away each year.

The article both touches on and skirts the major issue.  Seen in New York, the mooncake is hawked by gangs, in traditional Manhattan Chinatown by the Ghost Shadows and the Flying Dragons, youth gangs who are the more or less subsidiaries of the Hip Sing and On Leong fraternal and benevolent associations.  East of traditional Chinatown, you are not out of luck.  More violent Fukinese gangs control that area and are insistent mooncake providers.  In all areas of Chinatown's, Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Flushing Queens, mooncakes are sold to solicit bribes for safety.

I have never seen anyone eat a whole mooncake, or even a quarter of one.  Having gagged when trying a bite, they are not welcome here, but someone always shares some with us.  They are just symbols to be thrown away.  If they were nailed to a front door to deter criminals, they are so sturdy that they might last for a month or two.  To suggest, as the article does, that more edible mooncakes can be made is, from this perspective, a hopeless starting point.  They have one purpose, and that is extortion.

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