We had a fabulous Chinese New Year dinner last night; so much so that I am really looking forward to eating the leftovers!
I cooked some steamed chicken, squid with peppers in a black bean sauce and chilli prawns with celery. All this was accompanied by our special savoury rice, which is rice cooked with shiitake mushrooms, dried shrimp, Chinese sausage and Chinese wind dried pork (like pancetta).
This is a picture of the girls with Jase.
Lauren has some special beginners' chopsticks, which she both loves using and is getting quite nifty with.
Here I am with my darling girls.
I know that I talk about food a lot (OK, probably more than most normal people do) but to Chinese people, food is not just about eating a good meal. You can put it into perspective when you consider that the first famous Chinese chef Yi Yin, who established many of the rules of modern cooking in China lived in the 16th century BC (yes, that's right, BC). His food was celebrated by a food writer of the 3rd century BC.
Food is the lifeblood that flows through the family; it defines who you are and connects you to your parents, your grandparents and your ancestors. It is the cement that binds your family together. We laugh, cry, celebrate and mourn together with the help of food.
I sometimes worry about my girls growing up and not understanding where they come from. I now understand how my own parents must have felt. When I think back to my own childhood in the UK, I realise that a lot of things I just didn't understand when I was young. Mum and dad must have been so frustrated! It is all too easy to become totally Western. I never worry about them understanding England and Jase's background because it is there in front of them constantly. However, getting them to understand Chinese traditions may be harder.
I know now that there was always something missing when I was growing up. Bizarrely it wasn't until I went to live in Sydney that I finally connected with and understood my Chinese heritage. I found this very strange because I never had that experience from going back to Hong Kong; it never made any emotional connection with me. Sydney, with its large and friendly Chinese community going back many generations opened my eyes to what it all meant to be Chinese, and yet Western at the same time.
What a challenge for us in the future with Lauren and Jocelyn! You are not complete until you understand where you've come from and who you are.