Undoing the Past

22 Dec 2019 (Winter Solstice)

Among ethnic Chinese, the Winter Solstice or ” 冬至” (tong zhi) is a time for reflection, thanksgiving and fulfilling one’s spiritual duties.

A simple but significant food to mark this season is the glutinous rice flour balls or dumplings. It is called “汤圆”(tang yuan), deriving its name from the spherical shapes that connote concepts of auspiciousness such as roundness, smoothness and completion.

The preparation of this dish enables family members to gather at a table as they bond over flour kneading and the shaping of dough sticks into balls. The carefully shaped balls are then boiled in sweetened water and offered to deities, ancestors and the living.

In my childhood, tension among adult family members caused me to dread the yearly affair of rice ball making.

Stuck in the kitchen I picked up my mom’s mood swings & mean remarks as I quietly rolled the flour into little balls.

When we switched to buying ready made rice balls from the supermarket instead of making them, I was glad but sad at the same time.

So this year, on Solstice morning, well into my 50s, I decided to go back in time and undo the misery of the little girl trapped in the kitchen of my childhood.

I gave thanks for the glutinous rice flour that I bought. As I gently rubbed the dough between my palms and marvelled at the comfort of its powdery smoothness, my heart was lifted.

And there and then, happiness returned!

I boiled the rice balls in ginger and brown sugar syrup which my mother bought from Taiwan.

And after offering 5 rice balls to the sky, earth, water, ancestors and all sentient beings, and 9 to Wisdom and Compassion, there were still 7 left for me to enjoy.

And the 7 rice balls tasted just like the ones in my childhood, only this time they are so much smoother! 😊

Rice ball offering to bless sky, earth, water, ancestors and all sentient beings.

May efforts of undoing what has gone wrong in the past be blessed.

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