Fast forward: Go with the wind

Fast forward: Go with the wind

Aylin ÖNEY TAN -
Fast forward: Go with the wind Go with the wind! That might be the motto of this forthcoming year. It is the year of the Wood Horse according to the Chinese calendar, undoubtedly the speediest sign of the Chinese zodiac. Fast forward horse stands for movement, so expect lots of changes in life, and quite a number of travels. Freedom is the key word for the forthcoming year and we’re all going to unchain our hearts for a self-determined future.

Chinese and ancient Turkish calendars are both based on the cyclic turn of 12 animal signs. Not only China but most Asian countries still follow the old Sino-Turkish animal cycle of 12 solar years. There are ongoing debates between the scholars on which was earlier and some suggest the Turkish 12 animal calendar was a predecessor of the Chinese one. The cycle of the 12 Animals cannot have been invented independently by all the nations making use of it, but must have been derived from one common source. The majority of sinologists seem to be inclined to regard it as of Turkish origin.

Hungarian turcologist László Rásonyi suggests the animal calendar originated in central Asian Turkic communities, but was later developed by the Chinese, who were advanced in astrology, and re-borrowed by the Turks at a later stage.

In the Turkic calendar the horse year is named Yılkı, which is the name given to wild horses, or domesticated horses left in the wild to sustain themselves, especially during the harsh winter months. The self-sustained, semi-wild yılkı horses are much respected, as their struggle in holding to life is so dramatically moving and purely sad. We can make predictions on what to expect this year just by looking at yılkı horses. If “fast” is the keyword, it comes with both its pros and cons. We may find ourselves drained by speed at times, but also rewarded by the adrenalin rush of dazzling movement. One should remember that the winged horse Pegasus flies up to serenity of the clouds fast, but not without elegance. Therefore, catching up of with the speed does not mean going with the flow. Horses are noble creatures, so at times like them, one needs to move gracefully, with dignified, well-choreographed moves. If one takes the wrong step pursuing wrong paths, it might lead to pitfalls.

One of the key features of the horse is endurance, and even if one’s patience wears thin, the power of stamina will help to straighten things out. One must be open to the winds of change in the year of the horse, and be ready for surprises. Going fast forward for the less beaten, even wild paths will surely be rewarded, just watch out for valleys where the grass is greener.

To get ready for this fast year and to make it fabulous too, here are some tips and treats to enjoy on the Chinese New Year’s Eve. The dishes present at the New Year’s table of the Chinese must all have symbolic significance. Fish is for fertility and plenty, green vegetables for youth, and long noodles for longevity. Among them, fish is of specific importance; especially the “whole fish” is a festive dish. As China is such a vast country, in many places finding fresh fish is practically impossible. So, if no fish is to be found, a wooden fish ornament decorates the table.

Long noodles are also a must; uncut, extending forever, the noodles are for ensuring the fulfillment of the wish for long lives. When eating them they must be devoured without having them broken, so they are sucked into the mouth. Having said that, make your preparations for the New Year’s meals ahead, or opt for being treated by a Chinese restaurant. This is simply because using knives on the New Year’s day is said to cut off or slice the fortune.

Even if red is the color of Chinese New Year celebrations, two other colors are also considered as fortunate; orange and green. Tangerines, oranges and specifically kumquats signifying little golden coins make precious gifts of wishing well. Emerald green leafy vegetables, and young sprouts are thought to be symbols of youthful zest. Green leaves mounting into bunches together also resemble stacks of money banknotes. 

One of the “musts” is “jiaozi” dumplings; prepared altogether with the family. Teamwork in their preparation strengthens family ties, but one of the members rivals others. This is because a piece of money is hidden in dumplings, and the one who finds that fortunate dumpling is to be the luckiest. 
Writing these lines from Sri Lanka, I am already stepping into the fast lane of the horse year, hopefully a year of far-away travels and fast-forward progress. I definitely will be looking out for the greens, enjoying them as forecasts of wealth. Pick your choice of fortunate food, and take the daring bold step into the future; go with the wind, fast forward!

Recipe of the Week: 

Travelling needs a bit of pocket money. To fill the wallet one must eat lucky and auspicious foods on the New Year’s Eve. This stack of delicious greens may help you to pack considerable numbers of green banknotes for the travelling horse year. This recipe strangely combines a very Turkish flavor with that of Chinese. In China there is a roasted sesame paste that is almost identical with tahini. Roasted sesame paste from Antalya, often found in local markets, is an ideal substitute. The recipe is from my friend Fuchsia Dunlop’s widely accessible book “Every Grain of Rice”; Ma Jiang Bo Cai, “Spinach with Sesame Sauce” is one of the easiest recipes to make.

Take a bunch of small sized spinach, about 300 g, with roots intact. Wash with plenty of water to get rid of all the grit and soil. Boil some water in a pot with a tablespoon of oil and blanch spinach leaves for 30 seconds only. Drain and run through cold water to stop cooking. Gently squeeze to remove excess water. Arrange in a platter, actually a shoe-box shaped rectangular plate would be ideally in context for stacking the greens (not to remind bribe money found in shoe-boxes!). Toast 1 tbsp sesame seeds gently in a dry frying pan and let cool. Mix 4 tablespoons of runny sesame paste (as said, roasted sesame paste from Antalya is identical to the Chinese one), 1 tsp sesame oil, 2-3 pinches of sugar, and salt to taste to a creamy pouring consistency. Pour the sauce over the greens and sprinkle with the sesame seeds. You can also use very tender and young Cos lettuce leaves, just like the Sichuanese do.