Lotus Eating
February 1999

To celebrate the Chinese New Year, we examine the wonderous Lotus Bun.

There are only three ways I know of in San Francisco to pay just three bucks for more good ethnic food than a person can comfortably eat in one sitting.
a) Hit the Russian Bakery on Geary & grab some peroshkis.
b) Eat at a certain Indian restaurant in the Tenderloin.
c) Visit a Chinese bakery and snag yourself some steam buns.

Three bucks buys you a couple chicken buns, a lotus bun, some egg tarts and maybe even a pack of rice candy. The ladies behind the counter will argue with you. "Four for a dollar!"
You may think otherwise now, but the truth is you will crack under the pressure, and while they ring you up you'll think to yourself "Boy! This'll be AT LEAST five dollars." But you will be wrong.

I usually buy these from that Chinese bakery pictured in the August 1998 photo album page on my site. You know, the one with the blown up pictures of Bill Clinton from when he visited their bakery? It is somehow nice to see that the photos are still up after all Clinton has been through the past year.
For years I have been eating lotus buns and since they carry that name, I had the idea that they must have something to do with lotus flowers. They are a dessert item. Steamed bun with sweet gooey stuff inside.

Mmmmm, gooey filling. To me it tastes more like something that came out of a bean than something from a flower. But while it is a fact that there are legume bearing plants which belong to a species "lotus", I have been told that this goo is indeed ground up flower seeds. Click here to see a picture of a lotus I took in Bali.
The "Lotus Eaters" of legend can be traced to Homer's Odyssey, which is thought to have been written around 850 b.c. They were a people in Libya who reputedly ate a fruit from a tree known as lotus. (I should note here that although we tend to relate the lotus flower to Asia, it was also of interest to the Egyptians.) This fruit made the lotus eaters feel like everything was right in the universe.

I can relate to that. The very day I bought these treats, I also checked out the Chinese New Year Parade. This is a dragon from the parade.
They had this dragon all tricked out with lights, like a semi truck. The picture is blurry, but the end there to the left is the head, and one can kind of make out the face. The two yellow lights there are eyes. Below are two rows of white teeth.
They set off a whole ton of fireworks. There was a band playing drums and smashing cymbals. Noise & camera flashes. Here comes the dragon. Go eat lotus!


Everything copyright, 1998 Dave Benz

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