There’s nothing that says love quite like when your mother-in-law makes far too much of your favorite traditional holiday treat — and insists you take it all home.
China’s Tomb-Sweeping Festival (清明节，Qingming Jie), when families to gather to honor their ancestors, is also a time when my mother-in-law makes qingming turnovers, also known as qingmingguo (清明粿), or, in the local dialect, qingminggu.
The ubiquitous mugwort plants that sprout in the earliest days of spring add the distinctive green color to the glutinous rice flour, which forms the dough for this traditional food. She makes two varieties — one sweetened with sugar and the other savory, stuffed with tofu, bamboo shoots and pickled vegetables.
The savory one, my favorite, made an appearance on my mother-in-law’s table ahead of the coming festival. A metal bowl in the middle of the table held a large, steaming helping, more than my husband or I could possibly consume in one sitting.
And later, after we prepared to drive back home, my mother-in-law presented us with a red basket heavy with freshly made turnovers, which could feed us for an entire week, if not longer. We both protested that she gave us too many, but she pressed them into our hands anyhow, urging us to take them all home.
I’m no stranger to these rituals. After years of marriage to my Chinese husband, I’ve witnessed my in-laws channel their affection through the kitchen. Yet every time it still warms my heart, even now.
When I bite into one of these traditional Tomb-Sweeping Festival treats, I know there’s love wrapped up in them, from my mother-in-law. It’s the most important ingredient of all.