Over on Boing Boing Gadgets, Joel has spotted this sweet (and I do mean sweet) collection of edible, Nokia-handset-shaped mooncakes for Chinese mid-autumn festival. A couple nights back, I mentioned mooncakes at a dinner in Beijing and the table erupted in hilarity and derision -- my hosts advised me that mooncakes are the Chinese equivalent of Christmas cakes -- no one likes them, everyone gives them (I
like Christmas cake!). They are haloed with weird possible urban legends, like the scandal of a mooncake manufacturer that was recycling last year's filling because no one can taste the difference between year-old and fresh mooncake stuffin'. The consensus was that the best mooncakes come from western chains, like Starbucks (the Starbucks in China and Singapore carry green tea and coffee flavored mooncakes in plastic wrappers with little silica packets to keep them "fresh") (they also don't charge extra for soy-milk, a smart move in the land of widespread lactose intolerance). Starbucks's cakes are apparently less incredibly sweet than the real deal. Practically every food shop, restaurant, duty-free and department store I've visited here has had some kind of mooncake boxed assortment on offer, in elaborate packaging. At the Carrefour grocery superstore in Beijing, they had a double aisle running the whole length of the store devoted to 'em.
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