Poetry & Writing

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Moon Cakes

Celebrating the harvest moon,

Grandma opened the Eastern Bakery

boxes. Inside, palm-sized

cakes, each in its own waxy bag,

duck egg yolk in the center

with its thin sheen of oil, glistening

like a moon. I saved the yolk

for my last bite, letting the saltiness

surprise my mouth. The year I started

growing breasts, Sherilyn and I asked

our mother for the recipe. Too much trouble,

she answered. We’d made brownies

for the school bake sale so moon cakes

shouldn’t be difficult—red bean paste,

some pastry crust, pickled egg yolk.

I bought a wooden mold

from Ginn Wall Hardware and read

Wei-Chuan’s Chinese Cooking

for Beginners. We stuffed the cakes

into the round wells, flattening

the tops with our knuckles.

We whacked the mold against

the back of a chair, hoping the wood

wouldn’t crack and catching the cakes

when they flew out. In the oven,

all twenty exploded, yolks splitting

their delicate skin. That year, I thought

I might be dying from cancer, one nipple,

a hard lump, growing out from my chest.

When I screamed for my mother

in the bathroom, she told me, Shut up!

You’ll know later. From now on,

don’t let anyone touch you.

Does that mean I can’t play kickball?

I didn’t know about training bras

or anything until I read Are you there God?

It’s me, Margaret. Now, I want to create

moon cakes for the next generation.

This time, with fillings of Haagen-Dazs

ice cream or chocolate chip cheesecake.

I’ve ordered fuchsia plastic molds

from Malaysia, but I haven’t figured out

the egg yolk. What could you substitute

for a bright round moon?

                                                                        Priscilla Lee

My vintage moon cake mold

I accidently left the best part of the story from the moon cake poem.
See how heavy the wooden paddle/mold is?
Sherilyn and I were slamming the heavy wooden mold against
a dining room chair to get the really really dense moon cakes out.
After about a dozen or so moon cakes, we broke the chair.
Terrified, Sherilyn and I dragged it downstairs to hide in the garage.
We were hoping our parents wouldn't notice the missing chair.
Then, Sherilyn and I went back upstairs and started making more moon cakes,
slamming the wooden mold on the kitchen counter top.

My sister Sherilyn and me.

Me and Sherilyn a year before we went out and got our own moon cake mold.
I was in the third grade and Sherilyn was in the second grade.

My maternal Grandmother's moon cake recipe