Word of advice, don’t try this
Mid-autumn is around the corner and there is something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time.
That is to prove to my wife that mooncakes is all about packaging and branding. Nobody gives a shit about the taste as long as it’s sweet and expensive.
It must be expensive.
The packaging must look like it will bleed the very earth dry in terms of it’s carbon footprint. The brand of the mooncake must be loud enough so that when you post it on social media, people will go ‘woah’. The name of the hotel that produced that mooncake must be so ‘in your face’ that your first thought is not how the mooncake taste, but rather how much does it cost not just for the mooncakes, but also the rate for a staycation in that hotel.
Must be expensive, then you will have ‘face’.
It’s a Singaporean thing.
Mooncakes are one of the most overpriced items ever. A piece of pastry stuffed with lotus paste, throw an egg yolk inside, then sell it for $25. Even without the yolk, it can go for upwards of $9 at a neighbourhood bakery.
People still buy it.
My wife was making noise about $4.50 chicken rice and $5 noodles at her work place yet she buys $25, $30, $40 mooncakes.
Can you imagine the horror on my face when I see her come home with hundreds of dollars worth of mooncakes during mid-autumn?
Alright, technically after discount, a box of 4 from some hotel brands cost slightly less than $100, but she usually brings back 2-3 different brands with like a dozen different flavours.
How can one complain about $5 wanton noodle yet not bade an eyelid to a factory produced $25 mooncake?
Wife : It’s my money! I want the best for my family!
There are some things which I know it’s useless trying to get into an argument for, one of which is mooncakes.
Over the years, there seems to be a race to stuff all manners of crap one can think off inside the mooncake. We put BBQ meat and Mala spice in it. We fill it with liquor, chocolate, we gut a fucking durian, strip it of it’s flesh and soul then stuff it into a pastry. Preferably one with artificially created skin that is pink or green in colour.
Put it in a nice box with your brand, say it’s filled with MSW durian flesh and you have a $100 box of processed, uncooked flour covering left-over MSW flesh that durian sellers scraps off the edges of their knives and overripe fruits that won’t sell. Say it’s limited edition, sprinkle some dry ice and make the booth smoke like Chang-Er just descended down from the moon and people will queue up for a piece.
Ok I’m exaggerating, but you get the drift.
Personally I feel it’s not so much about the absolute cost of a product, it’s how much effort and work that goes into it that determines the value. Not the packaging, not the festival it is created for. Just because you are a 5 star hotel, doesn’t mean the mooncakes you produce is 5 star.
I can be a glutton at times, splurging on hotplate beancurd, sambal kangkong and Har cheong chicken for dinner just for myself after a long day.
Yes, for one.
The effort, the preparation of the ingredients, the frying, so much goes into the preparation of the dinner compared to a silly mooncake.
I don’t mind paying $20 for a bowl of ramen if I know the chef spends 12 hours on the broth, and another half of his day preparing the rest of his ingredients, but I find it hard to pay the same amount for a mooncake.
Especially when it takes more effort to make a Roti-prata.
Don’t laugh, I mean it.
Have you seen how mooncakes are made ? It really takes more effort to make a prata with egg than to make a mooncake.
Anyway, I only take my mooncake in one flavour, lotus paste with a single yolk. Period.
Yet year after year, my wife will bring home weird stuff that she insists I try.
She didn’t like it that I buy my mooncakes from a neighbourhood bakery that comes in a plastic bag as if it just shared that same bag with a greasy curry puff.
Wife : That one not nice one…you must try this one. XXXX hotel one ok!
Then she will embark on a half-baked sales talk about how much better are the ones she bought compared to the brandless mooncake I buy.
She likes mooncakes with interesting flavours, chocolate, lychee martini, mala, yuzu, and whatever madness retailers can think of, however, she will always include some in the flavour I take. Lotus paste with single yolk.
She will always cut it, serve it up when we have visitors, either friend, parents, in laws, then she will do an outright comparison in front of others so she can put down my brandless mooncake.
I know she takes pleasure in shaming me in my taste for mooncakes. It’s like it arouses her, it gives her pleasure and satisfaction that always end with a night of passionate love making.
Yes, Mid-autumn mooncake feast usually ends with sex for us. This is why I prefer Mid autumn night’s feast compared to Mid summer night’s dream. Sorry Shakesphere.
A typical ‘shaming’ session will go like this, served with some flower flavoured tea in a fancy pot. A session where men like me are put though when her friends come over.
By friends I meant a group of
gossiping girls sweet pretty babes where the husbands just sit quietly and stare at each other, making eye contact with no emotions while communicating secretly with text messages like we are busy with office emails.
Wife : James go and buy those funny no brand mooncakes again, I don’t know what is wrong with him. No expiry date, not sealed, don’t know if it’s even edible. I think those are used for prayers one or something.
James : they’re all the same. The supplier who supplies the lotus paste is the same. They make them all in some central kitchen and just used different molds for it..
Wife : See, he has this conspiracy theory that everything is made in a central kitchen these days.
As everyone savored the mooncakes, the comments from the connoisseurs started flowing.
‘this paste is smoother, more subtle’
Wife : This one nice, this one from XXXX hotel.
‘The crust is thinner for this, the paste to crust ratio is just nice’
Wife : this is not bad too, this is from XXXX restaurant.
When my wife feels that she has set everyone’s expectation and benchmark their taste bud to a certain standard, she introduces the brand-less, meant for ‘prayers’ mooncakes that I bought.
‘ermmm…it’s a bit rough’
‘the paste tastes weird’
‘egg yolk is a bit dry’
Words could not describe the look of satisfaction on her face when she establishes that she made the right choice with her expensive mooncakes.
Now, because of the pandemic, it’s been 2 years since the last such gathering was conducted.
So just yesterday, my wife hosted a gathering for a few close friends along with their husbands.
Having been given advance warning, I set about getting ready for the big switch. I went to a supermarket and visited neighborhood bakeries. I bought a few of those brandless, or mass market mooncakes with single egg yolk.
Then I went on an elaborate scam to replace the ones my wife bought. I did a total of 3 swops. Only one of the plastic wrappings looked similar to what the hotel used, so for that particular one, it’s a simple one to one replacement into the elaborate packaging that will make mother nature cry.
The other two, I intend to do the swop when I’m cutting it in the kitchen.
The guest arrives and the kids gathered in front of the TV to binge watch cartoons. The adults caught up and sat around the dining table.
Seeing my wife in a chic cheongsum top in pearl white complete with pastel blue trimmings, I knew I’m in for a good evening after the kids are asleep. I just need to remind myself to keep my mouth shut until everything is over.
It’s not a full cheongsum, it’s just a casual blouse she bought off the internet, but the shimmering material, how it sticks to her curves, how she pairs it with a casual pair of shorts that don’t look so formal, really gets the heart pumping.
I made a pot of tea while my wife readjust the already laid out boxes of ‘premium mooncakes’ on the table.
Wife : Dear, can you cut the mooncakes…
James : Orh…the snowskin ones or the normal ones.
Wife : normal ones first! Snowskin the flavours are too strong, it will overpower the original lotus paste.
James : Orh…
Wife : Put it on your cheeseboard, please arrange them nicely.
James : Orh.
Wife : try to make sure the egg yolk is evenly distributed.
James : orh.
Wife : Tsk…can you don’t be irritating…
James : Orh…
My wife gave me a look that pretty much tells me I can forget about touching her that night if I continue down that path.
I took out one of each from the boxes and my wife reminded me not to mix them up. She needs to know which is from which hotel/restaurant.
Heading into the kitchen, I quickly executed a ‘steal dragon, replace with phoenix move’ (偷龙转凤).
I did it calmly while stealing glances towards the dinning area. If I get caught in the act, I can kiss my ‘happy ending’ that evening goodbye. The ‘cheap’ mooncakes I got ranges from $1.25 to $7 each. They will be replacing the ones that cost between $25 to $38 a piece.
The hardest swop to do will be to put an eggyolk into the $1.25 one, but I managed to do it. A stunt that requires great skill and determination, it’s actually not that hard after cutting the mooncake into half. (The yolk came from a piece that cost about $6.50)
You just need to hollow out some of the lotus paste, stuff the yolk into it before putting it back together to portion them into slices for easier tasting.
While going through the last and hardest mooncake, Ben (fake name), the spouse of one of my wife’s friend comes into the kitchen.
Ben : James, need help…?
He saw the quick shuffle of packaging and the nervous look on my face and immediately figured out what I did when he saw the hollowed out lotus paste I stuffed into my mouth.
Ben : You CB!, Your wife will castrate you for this.
James : Shhhhhh!…
Shortly after that, I served the mooncakes to the guest. My wife started giving a presentation on which mooncake came from which hotel/restaurant.
Going back to the kitchen, I took the mooncake from the 5 star hotel, cut it up, and put it on an ugly melamine dish coloured in comfort taxi blue.
Then I brought that one out as well.
Ben gave me the look but I know he will not spill the beans. Especially not when I’ve seen him walk out of a massage parlor with a shocked expression on his face. He thought that place is safe especially when it’s surrounded by construction hoardings while the estate is undergoing some upgrading.
I saw him step out with the masseuse holding his arm with a smile. We made eye contact and the first thing I thought was the wedding I attended barely a year ago. He turned to his right and pretended not to see me while I made an about turn back into the construction site like I forgot something.
It happened close to a decade ago.
We never mentioned that day to each other, not even in private.
As soon as the mooncake feasting begun on the ‘premium mooncakes’, the reviews stared flowing.
‘hmmm, this year one not bad ar.’
‘the egg yolk is nice, not too oily’
‘I like this one, not too sweet.’
‘this year one seems to be better, the flavour is more concentrated.’
The more favourable the reviews, the brighter the twinkle in my wife’s eyes.
I ate a piece of the 5 star mooncake on my ugly looking dish and it tasted nice, I like it. To be fair, it’s of a considerable standard, it’s nice, but not one that I will pay $30 for.
I pushed the ugly looking dish towards the center.
James : Try this one too…neighbourhood bakery…but no brand one…
I could see my wife stifling a smile.
The guest are polite, reviews mostly fell between not too bad to, slightly tasteless.
My wife’s review are the worse off the lot, but that is to be expected.
Wife : This is a waste of calories.
I smiled and popped another piece into my mouth while the rest enjoyed the ‘famous’ brands on the cheeseboard while catching up. I refilled the cheeseboard once, again with the mass market brands.
Ben and I shared the one on my dish quietly.
After sending off the guest and putting the kids to sleep, I could see my wife’s satisfied expression when I pulled her towards me into the guest room.
Wife : hmmmmm…time to burn off all the mooncakes we ate…i still have durian in my breath.
James : i don’t mind one bit.
I could have spilled the beans then but I’m not about to jeopardize my evening of couple bonding activities. Especially not when she is in the mood.
Barely 20 minutes later, i held onto my wife tightly as I groaned and buried my face into her love pillows when I finished that evening, and the moment I’m done, I told her I have something to tell her.
James : I need to tell you something dear..
Wife : You didn’t wear a condom!
James: No…no… I did…
I came clean and told her what I did. The mooncake swop and everything she and her friends have been eating are brandless, mass market mooncakes from supermarket. The cheapest of which cost only $4.50 for 4.
The change in her expression was immediate. I thought she was about to turn into Hulk.
Wife : You’re an asshole you know that!
James : I just don’t want you to waste money…it’s all packaging and branding…it’s bad for the earth.
She got off me and went into the kitchen where I told her the 5 star mooncakes are kept.
Her last words to me before going to bed last night were ;
Wife : Good luck having sex with your right hand for the rest of the year!
It’s now 12.45pm, on 4th September 2022 as I typed this.
She is still ignoring me.
All the real premium mooncakes are locked up in her private cabinet, leaving only the cheap ones out for me. She has just booked a ride to take the kids out for lunch before meeting the in laws while I stay home to wait for the aircon technician.
I have a missing credit card from my wallet.
After this experiment, I concluded one thing.
It’s not about mooncakes and their prices.
Sometimes, it’s better not to prove to your spouse she is wrong and keep your opinions to yourself.
Now, i also have this idea about expensive turkey and ham for xmas that she likes to order…
I don’t see why we cannot replace turkey with a roasted chicken from the coffee shop, and the ham with a Yam ring from the Tze char stall, also…
Ok. Never mind.