While far-fetched and unlikely of being historical fact, the story of the mooncake nevertheless provided a means for cultural celebration and Chinese heritage, including those living abroad, such as Kim Fong Wong, who operated a Chinese restaurant in Toronto, Ontario during the mid 1950’s. According to him, the mooncakes was not so much about consumption but more about “…remembering our history and heroes…how the Chinese overcame Mongol tyranny and brought China back to prosperity and better days.”
During the Mid-Autumn Festival, it was Kim Fong Wong’s duty to obtain mooncakes, either by buying them from food importers, or alternatively, making them from scratch. Although it would have been much easier to simply buy mooncakes, he insisted to make them by hand, a very labor intensive and time consuming process. Upon finishing a batch of hand made mooncake, he would often give them to friends and family as gifts, commemorating the season and the ousting of the Yuan.
Seen as strange and foreign by westerners, mooncakes were strictly a food intended for the Chinese community only. Interestingly enough, mooncakes were heavily exchanged between Chinese families, so much to the point that “…we always had so much mooncakes we couldn’t eat them all…most just went into the garbage when gone bad…” as Mr. Wong recalls.
For Chinese Canadians, mooncakes were a symbol of lasting Chinese history, offering an opportunity for social interaction and a means for confirmation of their heritage. The fact that most mooncakes where hardly ever finished, just reinforces the fact that traditional Chinese foods were not so much to provide sustenance, but more to uphold custom and ritual.
-Matt Eng. 2008.