While the eminence of other heritages of ancient China may not be evident nowadays, the influence of these solar terms to our daily life is still omnipresent to say the least.
For instance, the peasants will go out and sow seeds when they know in come the Spring. Parents meanwhile, can get a hint about what kind of clothes to dress their children should they read the lunisolar calendar well. Family will also gather for a reunion dinner by the Winter Solstice because we accustomed to step down all matters and take a rest by then.
But specifically, what does the Summer Solstice means for we foodies? Plainly, it means the hot summer is full on, to be ensued by the foray of the san fu tian 三伏天 (lit. the three lurk days, otherwise known as the "dog days" of the sultry summer). As the saying goes, it's the time of year that we get burned high and steamed low 上晒下蒸.
To make the high and afternoon of the dog days even worse, according to TCM, are the invisible damages to our body that comes along with them. Say, damp heat, excess yang because of the excess heat and the lack of appetite, to name but a few. Good thing is, in Chinese thinking, we take every food more about its tonic and medicinal values than its nutritional values as people in the West do. In some sense, food is a vehicle for us to connect ourselves with nature, in a way that we consume different kinds of food not just to fight hunger but to utilize the associated forces to sooth out excessive and to replenish inadequate so that we can strike a balance for the energy flow, qi in our body and for better health.
Going back to the soup of wax gourd and lotus leaf. It is a soup of perfect tonic value for the moment and it doesn't take a cornucopia of mixes to make. To start off, both ingredients are considered very forceful for setting off the excess heat in our body. I also add some dried coix seeds and fried lentils for both are known to be excellent in promoting urine, with which the damp heat can be drained out from our body. The preparation is really simple. All you need is soak in the lentils, the coix seeds and the lotus leaf for while and then rinse them lightly. Next you put in about 8 bowls of water in a stockpot, throw in all the ingredients and bring it to boil -- do so by all means if you want to add some lean pork to enhance the flavors -- and reduce heat to low and cook it for 2 hours. There is two tricks more to draw out even more vigor from the soup. One is to resist the temptation to peel off the skin from the wax gourd: the skin of it is where the cooling gold dust kept. You may add a few slices of raw ginger in case your body is a bit weak for all that coolness.