Food Notes from a Qing Dynasty Scholar

Recently I acquired a book of notations on food by a Qing Dynasty scholar, Yuan Mu (袁牧 1716 -1797).

I love food but I have not written much about it.  I get distracted; being interested in too many things.  My urban orchard, poetry, books, writing; you know.

Anyway, the reason I love Yuan Mu’s notebook is the way he spoke of food.  That guy was a poet.  Well, actually in his days you do need to study the classics, sit exams and compose poetry to be called a scholar.  What we would call poetry today is everyday language for them.

Back to the topic: food.  Typical of men who probably can’t cook but love to show off their appreciation of fine food, Yuan Mu included ‘recipes’ amongst his notes.  Some were only one sentence long.  Here’s one (the translation into English is mine; translation being my latest thing):

Snow Flower Cake

After mashing steamed sticky rice, use ground sesame seeds mixed with sugar as filling.  To serve: first form into rounds then cut into squares.

The part I love is the last phrase:  first form into rounds then cut into squares.  This follows the Chinese philosophy of Taiji 太極, the yin yang 陰陽 principal of change, a principal that governs all things and all actions.  Nothing is absolute.  In this case, a circle is cut into squares to create balance.

Don’t you love that?

About Mary Tang

An urban orchardist everyday, a volunteer regularly, a poet sometimes and a blogger since March 2015. I travel when I can. Food is a constant.
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2 Responses to Food Notes from a Qing Dynasty Scholar

  1. Mary Tang says:

    Reblogged this on traduttoretradittore and commented:

    From my main site; this post contains a translation of a Chinese recipe from the 18th century.


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