DARK SIDE OF THE MOON CAKES
Mon Sep 19, 2:49 PM ET BEIJING (Reuters) — The people of Beijing munched through 15,000 tonnes of mooncakes — more than 1 kg (2.2 lb) per person — and bought one tenth of all the round cakes sold nationwide for Sunday’s Mid-Autumn Festival, Xinhua news agency said Monday.
The traditional, heavy pastries, symbols of the moon and common gifts for family, friends and business associates, have become a huge business in China with elaborate, lavishly packaged sets of just a few cakes commanding sky-high prices. Around this year’s moon festival, when families get together for dinner and to observe the largest full moon of the year, mooncake sales in the Chinese capital alone hit nearly 1 billion yuan, Xinhua said.
For all their popularity, mooncakes are subjects of annual controversy over their climbing prices, the waste generated by their excessive packaging and unsavory makers grinding up the previous year’s cakes for use in new batches. Earlier this year, the central government launched a crackdown on over-the-top mooncake packages containing such lavish gifts as solid gold Buddha statues and sometimes offered as bribes to government officials.
But the controversies have not left a bad taste in China’s mouth about the pastries, which come filled with salted duck egg yolk, lotus seed paste and even chocolate or ice cream. China’s 10,000 mooncake makers baked off 200,000 tonnes of mooncakes last year, Zhu Nianlin from the Chinese Association of Bakery and Confectionery Industry was quoted as saying by Xinhua.
Mooncakes were served as a special treat to hungry delegates at the six-party talks on North Korea’s nuclear ambitions over the weekend.
The cakes symbolize the overthrow of the Mongols at the end of the Yuan dynasty in the 14th century when, according to legend, secret notes baked into sweets helped spark an uprising.