One way I dealt with being separated from the fam this year was by making my own mooncakes, because it's an incredibly anal-retentive and labor-intensive task (much like sewing), and that's how I like to take my mind off things. Also, because I'm cheap and didn't want to pay $50 for a box of edible seasonal nostalgia. Nobody makes their own mooncakes nowadays because they're one of those projects that takes a long time and skills to get something that resembles a food... aka generally not worth a home baker's time. Everybody usually buys their favorite brand, and gifts them around to their friends and family whenever they get together during mooncake season.
Unfortunately, over the years, they've kind of become something like a Chinese fruitcake - you buy a box and the cakes are all hard and dry, the "100% lotus seed" filling you paid so much for is actually cut with 80% mung bean because the bakery wanted to be cheap, and the salted egg yolk in the center that's supposed to represent the full moon... kind of tastes like the cross-section of a urinal cake from the men's room at Denny's. So no one bothers to eat them anymore, and the same box of mooncakes makes its way around the entire social circle getting obligatorily regifted until it ends up in the trash. Bottom line is that a lot of them have become/stayed expensive, and yet somehow a lower quality that no one really even likes. It's a waste all around. Honestly, it reminds me a lot of fast fashion, where something gets introduced because it's seasonal, and everyone buys it because that's what they're supposed to do when it's in season... except it's not really that high quality of a garment and doesn't suit them well, maybe it survives a few wears, clothes swaps (if we're lucky), before finally ending up in the landfill. It's a complete waste of the materials, time, and labor of the person who made it... and you know they probably didn't get paid nearly enough for their trouble. I'm sure you can see where this is going.
*I* being an efficiency-whore, and the kind of person who didn't want to spend my time and effort just to eat crap, decided to research a bunch of recipes and make all the ingredients from scratch so I would have the greatest chance of edible results. This ended up being a *lot* more of a hassle than I bargained for, because the closest Asian supermarkets to my house are all mostly Korean, and weren't carrying any of the ingredients that I wanted anyhow. There's something really pathetic about wandering up and down all the aisles at the HMart looking lost and staring at the shelf full of canned red beans trying to specifically find the shortcut paste, the pre-mix cake flour, the golden syrup, kansui, and salted duck eggs, and leaving the store with 2 bags of dried lotus seeds, but otherwise jack squat. I ended up grinding my own lotus paste, doing some kitchen chemistry to make my own lye water, and cooking down my own golden syrup. Sometimes, there are just no shortcuts.
It was a lot of work up front... but worth it to have the formula for more in the future. And you know my cake-loving fat ass is going to make sure there are more mooncakes in my future. Interestingly, this is the very same principle that our Couture Club is based on - investing and putting the work in up front on a fully custom pattern so that you have the knowledge to create plenty more of a good thing for yourself in the future!
Miraculously, my homemade mooncakes came out great on the first try; rich, soft outside, and smooth, dense filling on the inside. It wasn't actually that hard, it just took time, some trouble assembling all of the right ingredients (especially during COVID times), and someone deciding they care enough to do the both those things. This taught me that (again, just like sewing) it's possible for anyone to learn how to do it properly if you take the time to understand what goes into the desired results, and don't try to be cheap about the materials.
Homemade mooncakes accomplished step 1 in my list of self-comforting, which was stuffing my face with tasty food. Of course, that wasn't enough for me... because who else was going to eat these delicious mooncakes with me? Sharing food with other people is half the fun, especially when it's a festival celebrating togetherness. Mooncakes are intended to be cut up and shared by multiple people - that's why they're so rich and dense. A full-size 100g mooncake probably has all the calories you'll need to eat in a whole day.
Delicious mooncakes having finally been achieved, the next logical step time of self-comforting seems obvious: sharing good mooncakes with others.
To be continued...
Leave me a comment with some ways you've comforted yourself while separated from your loved ones during COVID-19. I would love to hear how everyone has been engaging in self-care!