After multiple tries and several leaves sticky and unusable with rice, I make my first one while keeping an eye on the lesson; Line two leaves up. Fold up the bottom part so it creates a triangular pocket. Scoop in a spoonful of rice. Add fillings of choice. Cover with rice again. Fold the top halves of the leaves over tightly and then wrap with string.
The leaves split at the seams when you wrap them too tightly. They aren’t fresh ones, so some of them are yellow with age. My pockets are small so I have to put in the smallest amount of filling. Folding the leaves begets more splits. The string runs out. We forget to separate the sweet and savory zongzi, so we end up a pot full of shapeless green packages, each one of them unidentifiable from the outside. Still, we try our best to sort them into two containers. We set them in water and text a few friends to pick up their share.
When I take them out of the cooker, the water steams, silvery fog lifting into the air. With care I unwrap one, snipping the dead knot before unraveling the rest of the string. The leaves drip with water as I unwrap them. A haphazard triangle of white sticky rice appears.
My hands are sticky and red from the heat. I eat it anyway, blowing on the zongzi as I go. We’re happy with them. My mother complains about the shape and criticizes the amount of string we had to use, but it doesn’t stop her from taking out her phone and snapping an endless amount of pictures. My father eats some for dinner. Even my brother puts down his headphones to try a bite.
Banana leaves, rice, dried dates, string. My festival, cooped up at home. A little celebration for perseverance.