Stirring up memories
Time to monkey around
January 21, 2004
we’ll go to bed as sheep, but when dawn rolls around, and we roll out of bed,
it will be a whole new year! The Chinese New Year—the year of the monkey! Just when the last of the black-eyed peas
have disappeared, we get to celebrate all over again.
Chinese lunar calendar has twelve animal symbols. Those born in the year are said to exhibit the characteristics of
their particular beast. Pity the
kindergarten teacher with a room full of monkeys or dragons!
year, I shared this table that lets you figure out your animal, based on the
year of your birth. Only, I didn’t tell
what the various animals represented.
I’ve heard some complaints (particularly from the snakes and rats) that
folks didn’t care for their animals.
Now hold on! Every one has some
great characteristics—as well as some not so great. So for your lunar New Year fun, here’s a rundown on all the
start, of course, with the star of the year.
Monkeys are known, not too surprisingly, for their energy and
high activity level. They are loyal and
intelligent and, more than occasionally, prone to get into some mischief. When they are allowed to pursue their own
interests, they meet with great success.
They tend to talk a bit too much, but it is usually interesting because
they are highly intelligent and have good memories. There are many famous monkeys including Elizabeth Taylor, Omar
Sharif and George Lucas.
year will be the year of the cock. (Yes, for both boys and girls.) These folks are known to be punctual, but
sometimes a little loud. They are also
proud, alert and confident. They make
want loyal, likeable and trusted? You
want a dog. Sociable and good
listeners, dogs give great parties. If
you are invited—go!
pigs are not greedy and lazy.
They are caring, quiet and hardworking.
If you’ve got problems and need someone to listen, then find an
unpretentious pig. They’re known for
lucky rats. They are the symbol
of wealth, perhaps because they are so good at collecting things. They are also charming, ambitious and
creative. But they do tend to
gossip—watch what you say to a rat.
as an ox? You’ve got it. These folks are steadfast and dependable,
logical and honest. But don’t ask for
too many changes. They like things the
way they are.
trespassing at a tiger’s house; you’ll be attacked. When you don’t cross them, tigers are warm,
sincere and brave.
are quiet creatures; they’re always thinking.
Sometimes they act a little sad, but they are great judges of
character. Run the new boy or girl
friend by a rabbit.
out for dragons! They are likely
to breathe fire. Elegant, extroverted
and strong, dragons make a lot of noise.
They’re the boldest of all these creatures.
occasionally the snakes may be a little pushy, but they are also
subtle. Snakes are the symbol of
medicine and healing. Maybe the smartest of the bunch, snakes have great insight
there’s a contest, pull for the horses. They are cheerful, talkative and
independent, but the thing they like best is to win.
trusting and artistic—that’s the sheep.
They are diplomatic, but may tend to be a bit complacent. And guess what? They are happiest in a crowd
Now you let me know if your symbol matches
almost every culture, the egg is a represents new life and is a New Year food.
Here’s a good and easy way to welcome the Year of the Monkey. This
recipe for fried rice is a basic guide.
There are substitutes for all the ingredients but the eggs, rice and soy
sauce. Consider substituting chicken,
turkey or marinated tofu for the ham.
And for the vegetables—look through the refrigerator! Plain garden-variety cabbage works just as
well as the Chinese varieties. And of course, the more folks you have, the more
ingredients you can pile in.
Chinese Fried Rice
1 tablespoon peanut oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup thinly sliced Chinese or napa
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/3 cup cooked ham, diced
1/3 cup sliced green onions
3 cups cooked, chilled rice
2 to 3 teaspoons light soy sauce
3 eggs, lightly beaten
a large nonstick skillet or wok heat the oil.
Add garlic and stir-fry for about 30 seconds. Add cabbage, peas and ham.
Stir-fry 30 seconds longer. Add
rice, green onions and soy sauce; stir-fry for 2 more minutes. Push rice to one side of skillet. Pour in eggs. Cook, without stirring, 30 seconds. Continue stir-frying, combing eggs and rice mixture, until eggs
are thickened and no visible liquid egg remains. Spoon onto a serving platter and garnish with green onions.
Monkey New Year to all! Gung Hoy Fat Choy!
Postscript: I recently shared Linda Penn Barber’s recipe
for a delicious sour cream pie. Jerri
Ward called me with a question. The
recipe called for one carton of sour cream, but did not specify what size. One more time—this recipe has all the
Sour Cream Pie
1 tablespoon flour mixed with
enough water to make a paste
1 cup sugar
yolks of 3 eggs, beaten until
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves
pinch of salt
1 sixteen-ounce carton sour cream
all ingredients together, pour into a piecrust (Linda prefers Pet-Ritz) and
bake at 400 degrees for the first few minutes, then lower the heat to around
300 degrees. Cook until the custard is
set, about an hour.
Beat the egg whites until stiff;
then add 2 tablespoons sugar for each egg white, spread over the pie, return to
the oven and brown. Cool and serve.
Jerri. And thanks again to Linda. The pie was as delicious the second time as
Do you have some
memories to share? You can e-mail me.
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Trilla Pando is a member of the Southern Foodways Alliance & the Story Circle Network