Pigs have a reputation for gluttony but, apparently, this is undeserved as they only eat until they’re full. Being from a culture that greets each other with Have you had your rice yet? I don’t need much prompting to talk about food, so this seems like a good opportunity to mention some foods that are traditionally included in a Chinese New Year meal. Traditional foods are always symbolic, it’s all about bringing luck and fortune to those who consume it. But, from what I can tell, this association with good fortune is based on the tenuous rule of ‘looks like or sounds like’! (If you read last year’s post you’ll know how confusing the Chinese language can be, as it’s packed with similar sounding words with completely different meanings). So, here’s something to think about while you’re eating:
fish – Yu sounds a bit like the word for abundance or surplus. The fish should be served whole, with its head and tail intact. When placing the dish on the table, point the head toward your most honoured guest or respected elder. Don’t be tempted to eat it all, this symbolises surplus, remembr!
noodles – Noodles are symbolic of longevity because they’re … long.
dumplings – Their shape resembles the ancient gold ingots which were used as currency. The more dumplings you eat, the wealthier you will be in the coming year. Any excuse!
fat choy – Unfortunately named, as far as I’m concerned, fat choy sounds like the Cantonese phrase meaning to have great prosperity, as in the New Year greeting Gung Hei Fat Choy. Fat choy also translates as hair vegetable. It looks like black hair, is eaten as a vegetable but is
spring rolls – Fried. Looks like gold bars
satsumas, kumquats – Looks AND sounds like gold (gam)!
Year cake – Nian gao sounds like year high. This isn’t cake as you’d imagine it. It’s a thick paste of glutinous rice flour, brown sugar and Chinese red dates, set into a cake shape which is then sliced and fried. FRIED!
February 5th 2019 welcomes the Chinese New Year of the (earth) Pig. People born in the year of the Pig are thought to be responsible, determined, good-tempered and compassionate, though perhaps a little gullible. If you were born in 2007, 1995, 1983, 1971, 1959, etc., this is your year!
Gung Hei Fat Choy! Nian
Mo and Dave