Every year the panda faithful gather around their computers for the annual Panda Pregnancy Watch. Eager fans from around the world share news of which pandas are presumed pregnant, which aren’t and which have had cubs. It’s both a fun and stressful time.
Phantom pregnancies are common and determining if a panda is pregnant is also very difficult. Panda ultrasounds are posted, sometimes confusing the non-panda faithful as to whose ultrasounds they are! Then the moments we wait for – panda births captured on panda cams. The panda faithful hold their breath until the incredibly tiny baby panda starts an incredibly loud and ear-piercing squealing. Then the celebrations begin! And some more waiting as there’s always the possibility of twins and even rarer triplets.
In the midst of all the excitement there is also fear. Baby pandas are incredibly fragile and some don’t make it past their first week. But from the moment they are born they are welcomed, celebrated and loved. It is a happy and heart wrenching time. Sadly, as I was writing this piece, one of the recently born twin cubs died. The panda faithful have gathered together to mourn the loss. It is the cycle of life – birth and death. But it is amazing how sad a death can be for a little creature who had been with us for such a tragically short time.
I was going to end this post with a cupcake recipe I created to honour the time of the
Pregnant Paws. But the news of the passing of the baby panda has turned me down a different path. I will save that recipe for another time when we hopefully have something more to celebrate. I would like to share instead a recipe from my childhood.
Halva was served at many of the funerals I went to as a child. The making and eating of halva always brings back memories for me of shared grief and shared celebration for a life that is no longer.
A traditional sweet served at important milestones in life such as births, weddings and
for the syrup
1 cup sugar
2 cups water
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
1 cinnamon stick
for the semolina
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup semolina
4 dates, chopped (optional)
Place sugar and water in a medium saucepan. Stir over medium heat to dissolve the sugar. Bring to almost the boil. Add the saffron and cinnamon stick. Cover and keep warm while preparing the semolina.
Heat oil in a large saucepan over low heat.
Add semolina and stir to form a smooth paste. Continue stirring and cooking for 10 minutes or until the paste has become golden in colour.
Remove cinnamon stick from syrup. Pour syrup into the semolina paste. Be careful as it will splash. Once the mixture stops bubbling, begin stirring until the grains fully absorb the liquid. Add the dates and stir through. Continue stirring until the halva begins to pull away from the sides of the pan and starts forming a ball.
Working quickly, carefully fill large or small moulds with the halva, pushing down to make sure the moulds are tightly packed. Unmould onto plates while still warm.
Cover and chill until fully set.