Chinese New Year – Kitchen God

“That is what I always thought love would be. A kind of understanding.”

“You are very romantic for a Fire Horse,” Spring Blossom said.

“Maybe. I also like the story of the kitchen god who throws himself into the fire.”

This is a story that I tried to work into THE FIRE HORSE GIRL several time. None of my attempts were successful because it is one of those great pieces that exist outside the story an author is telling at that moment. In the final version of THE FIRE HORSE GIRL, it exists only in the one line above. Still, I think Jade Moon would have a complicated  and interesting relationship with the story. It is a good story, so she would like that. It ends with some pretty brutal justice, which would probably meet with her approval. On the other hand, she might not like that Zhang ends up as the eyes and ears of the Jade Emperor inside every household…including hers. Continue reading “Chinese New Year – Kitchen God”

Chinese New Year – Food

Nushi bustled in and out of the kitchen carrying plate after plate of food. I helped until I tipped a pile of tangerines into a bowl of rice.

As the Chinese New Year celebrations continue, I thought it would be fun to look at some of the traditional foods of the holiday. Food is an important part of the celebration. Relatives are greeted with the words “Have you eaten yet.” I love all the symbolism served with the foods and dishes.

Serve tangerines for luck and oranges and pineapples for wealth and good fortune. Apples bring wisdom and peace. Pomegranates with their treasure of seeds bring many off-springs.

Walnuts bring happiness for families and peanuts bring health and long life.

Fish is served whole. The center is eaten, but the head and tail are left in tact. It symbolizes a good start and finish to the year. It also means that there will be excess in the new year. Many ingredients are kept whole during new years meals since there is not supposed to be cutting in the new year.

The number of dishes is also important. Dishes are kept in even numbers to ensure double happiness in the new year.

Here are a couple of my favorites – spring roles, a symbol of wealth because their shape resembles a gold bar, and the Tray of Togetherness. It is a tray, usually divided into compartments (usually eight since it is an auspicious number) and filled with sweets and fruits such as kumquats (prosperity), coconut (togetherness), and red melon seeds (happiness).

Scenic Route

Is it a bad sign that I am finally getting around to writing my New Years resolutions on the fifth day of the new year? Maybe, but 2012 was a bit of a roller coaster for me, and I am finding a scenic route through 2013.

This year is about falling little out of step with the proverbial rat race. It is about quality over quantity and savoring the day-to-day. It is also about celebrating small wins and even smaller steps forward.

This is not a new philosophy for me, but I think it is time for a reminder. Since I write historical fiction, let me take you back to the year of my prom. It is twenty minutes before my date was supposed to be there, and I am wiping the tears from my eyes and seriously considering taking off my sequined prom dress, crawling back into my stirrup pants and oversized sweater, and popping an episode of Seinfeld into the VCR.

What made me so upset? My date. He did not stand me up. He did not show up drunk. He did not show up with another girl. He did not even show up in a hideous tux. He showed up early, with a friend who he was helping out because his date had stood him up. Devastating, right? I was probably thinking, “This kind of stuff never happens to Jennifer Aniston.” I was definitely thinking, “This whole night is ruined.”

Okay, it is easy to laugh about now. But that is what it felt like because the mythology of prom told me that everything would be perfect. So the second that reality didn’t match the image I had borrowed from movies and magazines, everything fell apart.

And that is the kind-of thinking that I am walking away from this year.

Because it is impossible to find perfection. And while I am busy looking for it, I am missing out on all the interesting, quirky, fun (like prom turned out to be), ridiculous, charming, silly, and inspiring moments that make up life.

My big moments are always a steady progress of hundreds or even thousands of little moments, each with their own exquisite beauty.

So, this year my resolution is to plug away at the small tasks and enjoy the little moments. I will get up early and enjoy the peace of sleeping children. I will learn the exact way my daughter’s nose crinkles when she smiles really big and breathe in the sound of my son’s laughter. I will get to know my characters and enjoy the way they arrive with bolder and cleaner strokes with each version of the story. There will certainly be moments when I forget this resolution, but that is okay. Because detours happen on the scenic route, and sometimes they lead to the most marvelous places.