The Qixi Festival has now become a true Valentine's Day. Before, I thought it was just a festival for the meeting of the Cowherd and the Weaver Girl.
Don't laugh, I probably only understood the connection between Qixi and Valentine's Day in high school. However, in my hometown, this day is indeed a festival, but it has nothing to do with Valentine's Day. We call it "Guo Chuqi" in our local dialect. Whenever the word "Guo" is used, it means that this day is highly valued, just like the Chinese New Year. Wuhan pays great attention to breakfast and calls it "Guo Zao," which can be seen as well.
Speaking of the Seventh Day of July in our place, on this day, families will invite close relatives to come over for a meal. It's called an invitation, but back then, communication wasn't so developed, so relatives would "come uninvited" on this day. Everyone would gather together and chat.
And before this day, every household would prepare a special snack, which we call "baba." It's actually a snack made from flour, either fried or steamed. The process of making it is roughly as follows: first, select good glutinous rice and grind it into flour. At this time, the flour is soaked in water, so it needs to be wrapped in a rice bag and pressed with a large stone to squeeze out the moisture. After estimating for a while, take out the flour and let it dry in the air. Then prepare the ingredients for the filling. Baba can be divided into two types: fried and steamed. For the fried one, prepare minced meat, crushed peanuts, brown sugar, etc. and mix them together. For the steamed one, you need to get banana leaves and cut them into rectangles about thirty centimeters long and wide, then steam them in a pot. This operation is to prevent the banana leaves from being too brittle and cracking when wrapping the baba. Steamed banana leaves are soft and not easy to crack, and they carry the fragrance of bananas. After all the preparations are done, spread out the flour, add a little oil and water to the flour, and when it can be shaped, start wrapping the baba. This is a skillful task, and as a boy, I have never made a good-looking one. After both types of baba are wrapped, they can be processed separately. Steam the baba wrapped in banana leaves directly in a steamer, and fry the round baba in a pan.
The two types of baba have their own characteristics. Baba wrapped in banana leaves is sticky and has the fragrance of the leaves. It tastes good and is durable. Fried baba is full of flavor. When you take a bite, the juice flows down the corners of your mouth, making you want to lick it clean.
Because eating baba is a custom on this day, it gradually evolved into "Remember to come to my house to eat baba" instead of saying "Remember to come to my house on the Seventh Day of July." It can be seen how important baba is on this day.
Generally speaking, making three or four catties of baba at home is enough to serve one or two tables of people. Some families have many relatives and more friends coming and going, so they will make more than ten catties of baba, filling up a whole room.
However, baba can easily become boring. You eat a few at home, and when you go out to visit friends, you are forced to eat a few more to compare the flavors. In less than two days, you get tired of it. Moreover, the glutinous rice used for baba, after being fried in oil, is very heaty and should not be eaten too much. Even if relatives help eat a few, there will still be a lot left. This happens every year, but everyone enjoys it.