Full swing in full moon

Full swing in full moon

Aylin ÖNEY TAN - aylinoneytan@yahoo.com
Full swing in full moon

This year, the Feb. 14, Valentine’s Day, coincides with the full moon

The moon defines the mood! No doubt about that. We sometimes feel moody and down - it could be the moon descending; we sometimes feel hyped and bright - it could be the full moon shining... Now that this year, the Feb. 14, Valentine’s Day, coincides with the full moon, we can expect better chances in our love life. Actually there is more to it: as Feb. 14 is the first full moon night of the lunar year, it is also the Chinese Lantern Festival, which is the day dedicated to sweethearts. It seems this Friday is this year’s magical day for a fortunate date! 

Throughout the ages, almost all cultures in the world associated the first full moon of the year with a magical charm. The day officially opens the new season and welcomes the spring. The dark cold winter days will finally come to an end, and soon spring will bloom. The turn of seasons bears hope for the renewal of life cycles. This is the time to awaken feelings of love, charm the opposite sex and match lovers to produce offspring. 

Valentine’s Day has its roots in the ancient Roman spring rite of Lupercalia. The Lupercalia festival of Roman times was truly a matchmaking event, aiming at coupling young boys and girls. “Lupo,” meaning wolf, gives its name to this festival, which was basically aiming at warding off the wolves threatening the herds. When the herds are saved from the threat of wolves, the sheep will eventually produce baby lambs, sustaining the community to a new prosperous new year. The couples were also expected to “mate” and produce a “herd” of new babies. The young men would splatter water over girls with shoots of tree branches replicating insemination. Rumor says that young couples would draw their mates’ names from a fortune jar and remain lovers for the rest of the year. Christianity, in a way domesticated and civilized this outrageously explicit Roman festival and transformed it into the romantic sweet Valentine’s Day. The Roman festival ensured having a mate (or date) for every single boy or girl, so the day was jolly for all. Nowadays, it is not that easy to find a soul mate to celebrate the shine of the full moon. 

Similarly, the Chinese Lantern Festival is the day for lovers to unite. According to Chinese belief, there is an elderly wise man up in the moon that ties lovers together with an invisible thread of silk. Even if lovers cannot be together on the day of full moon, at least they can look up to the moon shining, and feel this invisible bond uniting them. Full hope to find a match is in full swing during the Lantern Festival. Another custom is to float along with lanterns, oranges or tangerines, which are synonymous with good fortune, in ponds or rivers. Nowadays, the hope to find love is usually done through internet dating sites; even this new trend takes a traditional twist under the shine of the full moon in the Lantern Festival: some desperate spinsters let oranges float with names and e-mail addresses written on them… 

Any food and drink that makes one happy is the key aphrodisiac. After all, it’s all in our minds, with maybe a little trigger of help from the moon, we can easily match our souls through sharing the food we love. I’ll float my orange, no need to write my e-mail, and I’ll make this sublime pudding. Tang Yuan, the classic glutinous rice balls of Lantern Festival are not only tricky to make, but the essential ingredients are hard to find in Turkey. As this lucky coincidence of Valentine’s Day and Lantern Festival deserves to be celebrated, I was initially inclined to choose a Chinese dessert, a simple almond curd in syrup maybe; alas I picked a little known Turkish recipe from my Gaziantep book that matches fantastically the almondy milk gel cubes. These delights will resemble the lanterns gently floating in the sky with their luminous white glow resembling the shine of the moon. At least share an orange and enjoy and relish the moon!

Recipe of the Week: 

Haytalya is a sublime pudding consisting of small white cubes of blancmange swimming in a light fragrant syrup, scattered with emerald green pistachios. One can easily elaborate by adding pomegranate kernels, blanched almonds and other seasonal fruits, or just lychees for a Chinese touch. Mix 5 cups of milk and 3 cups of water with 1 cup wheat or corn starch in a pot until smooth and bring to a gentle simmer over moderate heat, stirring constantly with a whisk. When the mixture thickens, add 1 cup of sugar, a few tablespoons of rosewater and 2 chickpea sized lumps of crushed mastic. You can omit the latter and add a teaspoon almond extract to resemble the Chinese counterpart of this dessert. Rinse a shallow tin or tray with water and pour the mixture to a depth of 2-3 cm. Allow to cook and set in the fridge for a few hours or overnight. Prepare a light syrup with 3 cups of water and 2 cups of sugar: bring to boil and simmer about 5 minutes, let cool and chill in a deep bowl. When ready to serve, sprinkle a few tablespoons of syrup over the pudding to ease the cutting, and cut the pudding into little squares. Carefully transfer the cut pudding cubes into the chilled syrup. Add a handful or two of blanched pistachios and flavor with a sprinkling of more rosewater. 

Cork of the Week: 

For me, a cold steely Martini cocktail as cool as the moon would do the trick. I like my Martini as dry as possible; this time it’ll have a rosy glow for Valentine day. Choose your favorite gin, my pick for this one is Hendrick’s, add a dash of Angoustra bitters and a splash of rosewater, stir with lots of ice cubes and strain into a chilled Martini glass, the one of Swarowski if possible.

Fork of the Week: A day dedicated to sweethearts is not complete without sweets. A sophisticated floral chocolate hits the target. Violet scented hand-made chocolates of Marie Antoinette Chocolatier will bring you the whiff of love hanging in the spring air. www.marieantoinette.com.tr