This past weekend we were fortunate to be able to partake in some of the Asian culture and help celebrate the Chinese New Year. 2013 marks the year of the Snake, and the Cleveland Asian community pulls together and celebrates their amazing heritage.
Call me naive, but I really had no idea the Cleveland area had such a diverse Asian community, and I was super excited when my wife suggest that we take the boys and go. As I have grown older, I have really started to appreciate more the different cultures and experiences one could enjoy not only around the world, but even often in your own community.
The Cleveland Chinese New Year celebration that we attended was held at the Asian Town Center (3820 Superior Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio 44114), which is a smaller “mall” pulling together Asian vendors, art and entertainment in the heart of a very diverse Asian community. While the area is not quite like the Chinatown that I experienced in Chicago or New York City, but it was charming nonetheless.
After some early morning traditional Asian music, we headed into the Asian Food Co. to check out the wonderful, and some questionable, products from around the World. The boys enjoyed checking out various gummy products and chips, unaware of exactly what was in the product.
While inside the grocery, we purchased the boys perhaps the best egg rolls we have ever eaten. Real. Traditional. Not the fake junk you get at an American Chinese restaurant. The egg rolls were packed full of warm pork, and the boys loved them! Mrs. InACents and I decided to indulge in a Wife Cake, which is a pastry filled with winter melon and almond paste. The Mrs. was more impressed than I was with the pastry, but it was good and a unique, original twist when you get used to the gelatinous, high fructose corn syrup junk available at American bakeries.
By the time we completed our appetizers for the day, some of the main showcases were starting to play on the main stage. First up to celebrate the Chinese New Year was Mame Daiko Japanese Drumming. People of various ages, including kids, played tremendous drum lines that make you shake to the bone. Words, and even the video below, can not even begin to explain the tremendous deep bass that come when ten people are banging on drums.
The idea behind loud music stems back from centuries of Asian tradition, where it is believed they warded off evil spirits. All I could think about was the incredible display of drummers from the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. With that much vibration coming from the hundreds of performers, it is a wonder the entire bird’s nest stadium did not come crumbling down. The sheer power of sound was pretty amazing!
Following a long build-up for what everyone had come to see, it was time for the tradition of the Kwan Family Lion Dance. Besides some videos or news clips, I had never actually seen and experienced a traditional lion dance. I knew nothing of the heritage or what any of it all meant.
My wife educated the boys and I on the tradition associted with cabbage, and red envelops filled with money, and what the scenes represented, as well as variations of the story. It was wonderful having my knowledgeable wife along for the experience.
Besides the wonderful displays of traditional Chinese culture, it was a unique experience to see health remedies being weighed and sorted by hand, some of the children dressed in classic garb, and the authentic lunch we had down the street.
Perhaps what excited me most happened to be smack dab between two delectable pieces of bread. About ten years ago when visiting a college friend in Boston, him and his girlfriend introduced me to a unique little Vietnamese sandwich called Bánh mì. From that moment I was addicted, yet been on a mission to find them again until now.
I was delighted to find a little Vietnamese restaurant inside the Asian Town Center that served my delectable little sandwich, and I was not getting out of town without any. Mmm! My wife and I both shared a traditional, as well as a pork version, and they were both equally fresh, with the perfect consistency of chewy bread, and spiciness. My Bánh mì was the perfect end to an extraordinary Chinese New Year with my family!
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