Saturday, February 09, 2008

Food, glorious food

We had a fabulous Chinese New Year dinner last night; so much so that I am really looking forward to eating the leftovers!

Chinese New Year 001

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.

Chinese New Year 002

Lauren has some special beginners' chopsticks, which she both loves using and is getting quite nifty with.

Here I am with my darling girls.

Chinese New Year 003

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.


Kim said...

Food is such a connector. I know that when I moved away from Kentucky, all I called my mom to find out how to make soup beans (not bean soup) which is a staple in Southeastern Kentucky. She makes it all the time and I hated it until I was faraway from home.

Rena said...

Agree. Food evokes such strong memories and people and places. Some of my best memories are connected with great food!