Thursday, February 7, 2008

Sticky Stuff on Tet

Peach blossoms, traditional symbols of fertility and fruitfulness for Tet, the Vietnamese New Year, a three-day holiday beginning on February 7 in 2008.

I often wonder what I'm missing when people get all charged up about some fiendishly clever plan that seems like guaranteed disaster to me.
Hey! Let's buy and sell houses at insanely inflated prices with money we don't have!
Let's invade smaller countries and tell the people who live there that we're liberating them! They won't mind, or if they do, heck, they won't be able to mount a resistance.

Then, if all goes bust, I think, well, that's too bad I was right after all, despite not knowing the difference between a stock and a bond or what the Defense Department does.
But, look for the silver lining, my mother always used to say. The good thing about disasters is we all learn so much, I think to myself.
And we do!
We give the clever plan a new name!
And then we do it again.

This Iraq War, for instance. Didn't it used to be called something else forty years ago?

What a year.

I was thinking about it today when I picked up Mom's Sticky Rice Dessert at my local Vietnamese deli. It's a special dessert--a log of sticky rice with sweet fillings, wrapped in banana leaves--made in celebration of the lunar New Year of the Chinese calendar, called Tết Nguyên Đán, which means "Feast of the First Morning" in Vietnamese.

It's weird to me that Tet is just a normal word denoting a happy holiday, because I always hear it as one part of the phrase "Tet Offensive," the massive attacks the Vietnamese communist forces mounted in 1968 beginning on Tet, despite American military intelligence declaring they were incapable of doing so.

I was in second grade forty years ago, so I didn't catch the details, but I sure remember the concerned, caring voice of Walter Cronkite in our living room every evening.

Five (5!) years ago as we were preparing to invade Iraq I had this body-memory feeling: Haven't we done this before? Didn't it turn out not so great? Am I missing something?

But to hell with gloom!
Here I am buying dessert from my Vietnamese neighbors, who weren't even born in 1968.
Maybe in forty years, if I'm still here, I'll be buying samanu ––a sweet wheat pudding––for Nowruz, the ancient Persian New Year celebrated on spring equinox in Iran and northern Iraq, and thinking how nice it is we aren't killing each other anymore.

Hope. It's sticky stuff.
So, Happy New Year, world!

[recipe for Sticky Rice to follow, below]

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