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*Renewing the Ancient Taste

 

Renewing the Ancient Taste The taste of traditional pastries is a precious memory to many people in Taiwan. Generations ago, when poverty was the constant reality, a small piece of cake was so rare that it would be divided up for the entire family to share. In Taiwan, pastries are closely associated with important stages and events in life: childbirth, adulthood, marriage, birthday, and the worship of various rituals and customs. After hundreds of years of evolution, the role of traditional pastries has gradually deepened and blended with local culture and customs, indicating the historical value of Chinese culture.
 In our great grandparents' era, almost all homes had a wooden “cake mold” required for pastry-making. Making rice cake was traditionally a woman’s craft. Whether it is the joyful red turtle cake or thin-skin grass cake with stuffing, many elderly people are still able to finish the entire piece. The decorative patterns on the cakes are derived from nature and often symbolize auspiciousness, representing our ancestor’s pleading for peace and life transformation. For example, peony stands for “wealth”, Kirin totem is seen as “good fortune”, and birthday rice cake for the elderly signifies “longevity.” Furthermore, the turtle, called ‘jiu’ (lasting) in Taiwanese, symbolizes long life; the dragon and phoenix patterns engraved on the cake signify wealth and auspiciousness; and last but not the least, Taipei 101 was named after the image of steadily rising bamboos. Motifs rendered on the cake mold represent a combination of traditional art and culture. Making full use of the beautiful patterns, these traditional pastries are not only delicious, but also ingenious creations with meaningful implications.
 The improved economic situations and the change in eating habits in contemporary life have driven the transformation of traditional pastries, satisfying our sense of nostalgia and leisure needs. The ever-diversifying pastries for special occasions include: bride cake, moon cake, flaky green bean cake, and the famous Yilan cattle-tongue cake, etc. After integrating pastries into the network of the cultural industry, the emphasis on the “place” of origin became an important factor. Pastries crowned with the name of the place where they were made, such as Taichung sun cakes, Dajia taro cakes, Chiayi square cakes, Kaohsiung Qi-gu cakes or Hualien sweet potato cakes, further enhanced their value under the special context. With the combination of local specialty, regional culture, improved taste, a variety of selections, and creative packaging, the modernized traditional pastries became the best souvenirs for tourists. These pastries are not only symbols of good luck, but they also tell touching stories and renew local traditions. It would be difficult to understand Taiwan’s folk life without tasting a piece of traditional pastry to savor the culture it represents.

 

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