The Year of the Ox, is it time to look down?
Last year when I wrote on Chinese New Year, I remember editing some sentences a few times in order not to sound super pessimistic and be like a scaremonger inducing fear by saying that it would be a disastrous year.
Here is what I exactly wrote in that article: “I was just about to say that the forthcoming year is prone to earthquakes, hurricanes and floods, or any disaster-related to the earth and water, and then I did not feel like writing distressing things and deleted my words. I did not want to appear like a doomsayer, and considering the coronavirus outbreak in China, I thought we don’t need one more bad news. That very night an earthquake in eastern Turkey happened. Now it is the flood in Brazil. I better keep my mouth shut.”
Apparently, I turned out to be a doomsayer. Just as the year started with earthquakes and floods, it ended with a couple more, unfortunately, with the city of Izmir suffering most recently. Needless to say, COVID-19 was a global disaster, and it is here to stay around for more.
So, what about this year? It is the “Year of the Ox,” and it is a “Metal Ox.” The story of the Ox in Chinese Zodiac is about making up for mistakes and working to reverse mishaps. According to the belief, ox was sent to earth from heaven to aid humans that faced starvation. In early agricultural societies, in years of drought, people had little to survive on. The Ox was sent by Gods to help people plough their fields so that they can have a little food to eat at least every three days. The Ox conveyed the message wrongly and told people that they could eat three times every day instead. Since then, the Ox is doomed to serve humans and toils in fields.
Of course, in the “Year of the Ox,” agriculture will be on the agenda. In contrast to the floods, the “Year of the Ox” will be prone to drought and lack of water. It will be a time of living responsibly and sustainably. If everyone cares for the environment and does their share to safeguard the planet, we will endure. Sometimes all we can do is keep doing whatever our job is and do it well and properly.
Obviously, the Ox is the workhorse in the Zodiac representing labor and power. Its existence is about resilience and restraint, it does not complain even if it suffers immensely. The Ox is about honest hard work, duty and discipline. The Ox is tough and patient and does not buckle under pressure. The Ox never gives up.
Metal is also tough. It is resilient, durable and becomes even more so when worked on -- Iron becomes stronger with forging. There is a saying in Turkish, “işleyen demir ışıldar,” which literally means that “iron that works, shines.” It is similar in meaning with an English saying, “a rolling stone gathers no moss.”
It seems that the dual durability of ox and metal will make 2020 a year of resilience.
I hope their combined power will mend the scars of the past year. Many sources on Chinese astrology say that it is a time to keep a low profile, be humble and modest, and keep heads down. This last suggestion reminds me of the recent Istanbul’s Boğaziçi University incidents. Well, all I can wish for the students and academics is the power of the Ox, to have all the patience they need and not buckle under pressure.
So, it is time to be a humble working bee. As the Ox looks down and toils by plowing fields, it is time to look down, but not to obey and surrender, but to be able to look up again and see the bright sky of the future. As it is the year of work and labor, get working on making your dumplings, it will bring luck and charm in your life. Keep calm and carry on!
Recipe of the Week: Dumplings are a delight of Chinese New Year, so it is worth the effort. Do not forget to put a coin in one of the dumplings; the lucky one will get all the fortune in the coming year.
First, start with the dough for the dumpling. Put 500 grams of flour, 350 ml cold water and ¾ teaspoon salt in a bowl and knead well till elastic and bouncy -- the dough must be tough (just like the Ox), yet pliable. Cover the dough with a damp cloth and let it rest while you prepare the filling.
For the filling, wash a small bunch of spinach, about 350-400 grams, and blanch in boiling water for about two minutes. Drain and run under cold water. Squeeze by both hands to remove excess moisture and chop finely. Mince a clove of garlic or two, add about 1 tablespoon of fresh ginger and finely chopped 2-3 spring onions. Mix them with 500 grams of minced meat and the chopped spinach. Add 1 teaspoon each of salt and sugar, black and white pepper to taste and five tablespoons of soy sauce. Mix well.
To make the dumplings, roll the dough into about a 2-centimeter thick roll. Cut it into 80-90 pieces.
On a counter dusted with flour, roll each piece into saucer-sized disks, about 6-7 centimeters in diameter, stack under a damp cloth, and lightly dusted with flour to avoid sticking. Fill and fold into a “D” shape, folding the edges in an overlapping manner. The shape symbolizes ancient Chinese gold nuggets and is believed to bring wealth and prosperity. Boil the dumplings in batches of 8-10 at a time for about 10-12 minutes in salt water. The trick in boiling the dumplings is, when the dumplings are thrown in the water, the water will briefly stop boiling, when it comes to the boil again, throw in a ladle of cold water, and when it comes to the boil again, repeat the process two more times. By this method, you will be able to make sure that the meat filling will be thoroughly cooked. Serve with a garlic and vinegar sauce made by mixing five cloves of minced garlic with a small cup of rice vinegar, or make a soy sauce dip by adding 3-4 tablespoons of rice vinegar to half a cup of soy sauce, and add a generous pinch of minced spring onions, garlic, ginger and sugar to it.