Chinese culture comes to Hillsboro
Attendees had a chance to experience a little bit of Chinese culture at the annual Moon Festival on Sunday at the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace.
The Moon Festival is an important Chinese holiday that celebrates the Lunar Harvest. It falls on the 15th day of the eighth month of the Chinese calendar, around September or October on western, Gregorian calendars.
Traditionally, Chinese families spend the day together. They often eat moon cakes — a Chinese pastry filled with sweet bean paste or pineapple filling — drink tea, and watch fireworks and Chinese dragon dances.
Sue Groves, executive director at Pearl Buck, said the day was full of different activities revolving around Chinese culture.
“First we had a wonderful Chinese cooking demonstration that featured local ingredients — I thought that was a very nice touch,” remarked Groves.
Chang Yen, or Lisa Jiordano, of Rockville, Maryland, was invited to host the cooking demonstration.
“She tried to emphasize things that we could buy locally,” said Groves. “I think everyone really enjoyed that. Then we went upstairs and practiced writing Chinese characters and calligraphy. We had an origami lesson and I think both the children and adults really enjoyed that. In the meantime, some of the children were in the back of the room painting stencils of Chinese characters to take home.”
Yen said she was surprised with the turnout.
“I was really impressed. I didn't expect that many people to come. I told my son Vince — tonight we're eating noodles and leftovers if no one shows up!” joked Yen.
Vincent and Patricia Jiordano demonstrated Chinese calligraphy and origami folding.
“Patricia seems like a really good teacher. She seemed great with the kids, and, from what I could tell, the kids had fun,” Yen said.
Yen said it's been more than 15 years since she's been to Pocahontas County, but it was nice to be back. She said the mountains and geography here are similar to eastern China and Taiwan, where she grew up. She said the ride out was gorgeous, especially with the leaves this time of year. Yen said she's actually been to the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace before.
“Not to demonstrate cooking, just for a visit. She is one of my favorites — Hemingway, Pearl Buck and Steinbeck,” said Yen.
Yen said everyone seemed very friendly and she was happy to see so many families and different ages among the attendees.
“It seemed like all generations of people. I got to hold someone's baby. I think the mom had two kids and she was helping her daughter fold origami, so I got to hold him and walk around. He was very cute,” Yen said.
Yen said in Chinese culture they believe family comes first.
“For us, family getting together is very important. That's why I was impressed, it was nice to see whole families come out and have fun together — as a family,” commented Yen.
Chris Butsavage, of Bethesda, Maryland, is an AmeriCorps VISTA who just started working at Pearl Buck. This was the first event he's been involved with, but he said he really enjoyed himself. He hasn't been in Pocahontas County long, but he said it doesn't seem like people often get that sort of cultural exposure here.
“I think that's what drew a lot of people, just that it was unfamiliar to a lot of people,” Butsavage said.
Groves said this was the final event of the season, but they're already gearing up for next year.
Keep an eye out for upcoming events at the Pearl Buck Birthplace. A wine dinner is being held in January, but the date is yet to be determined. A series of gardening demonstrations are tentatively scheduled for the third Sunday of every month throughout the summer, a birthday celebration is scheduled for June 29, and the annual croquet tournament is scheduled for June 30.
Groves said she was delighted with the turnout and got good feedback from folks that took part.
“I was very pleased. It was a wonderful event. I got lots of good comments about it and I think everyone had a real good time. There was one family I talked to whose child is being home schooled. They were just thrilled to have that kind of an event to take their child to and learn something new about a different culture,” Groves said.
Two of the items featured on Sunday included an egg-and-tomato dish and stir-fried string beans. In many western cultures, meals customarily revolve around a large portion of meat with a couple of accompanying side dishes. In Asian cooking, it's almost the other way around — most meals consist of several side dishes, some with meat in them, served over rice or noodles.
½ dozen eggs
3 small tomatoes
1 spring onion, cut into small pieces
White pepper to taste
Salt to taste
“It's pretty simple,” Yen explained. “You just put a little bit of oil in the wok. Make sure the temperature is a little bit high. I put a little piece of green onion in the wok and wait for it to sizzle before I add the eggs. You can make it however you want — if you want more egg or more tomato, you just add more. You should scramble the eggs first. I always wipe the wok clean after I cook the eggs, before I stir-fry the tomatoes. I add a little more oil and heat it before I cook the tomato, too. Then you just mix the cooked eggs, cooked tomatoes and raw spring onion.”
Stir-fried string beans:
White pepper for flavor
Soy sauce to taste
“Just make sure the oil is a little hot before you add the string beans,” Yen suggested. “Add a little soy sauce and cook the whole beans until they're tender. If you want to make a little gravy — to eat it over rice, you can add a little chicken broth. If you want to thicken it you can add a little cornstarch. The other day I just sprinkled a little bit of soy sauce on the beans but you have to make sure all the beans get covered with some of the soy sauce. Most Chinese people put some garlic in there, too — two or three small cloves.”