February 6, 2008

Eve of the Rat's Year

Thursday begins the lunar year 4705, the year of the rat.  My husband's family and a few close friends will close out the old year tonight with a big dinner.  Mum-in-law will have gone to a lot of effort preparing fresh ingredients for her annual hot pot meal, with rich chicken broth, seafood, vegetables, meats and, finally, noodles.  She'll have been standing and cutting for hours and will be quite worn out, but with our gratitude for good food, I think she won't mind too much.

My contribution to the meal is dessert.  I used to bake a lot of cheesecakes, but haven't during the past ten or so years.  Instead of using my trusty recipe, I wanted to try something new.  This cheesecake is orange-flavored, appropriate because the Chinese word for "orange" sounds like the word for "wealth" -- that's why oranges are given during CNY.  To get the orange flavor, I made syrup by grating orange peels, squeezing fresh juice, and boiling down with sugar until the liquid was 75% less than the original amount.  I think it will be beautiful after I place tiny Mandarin orange sections on the top.  Alarmingly, I won't know how it tastes until after it is presented!

My favorite part will be after dinner when my unmarried bro-in-law Kuan kowtows before his younger married brother Tien and wife (me) to show his gratitude for the red envelope we give him.  In this family it's all done in fun and with everyone laughing, but it was tortuous when I had to do it.  There are many benefits to being married -- being on the other side of this tradition is one of them.  Here is a similar opinion.

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