So, yesterday was the Lunar New Year, also more commonly known as the Chinese New Year (but apparently that is no longer politically correct. Who knew?), and to celebrate I got the BRILLIANT idea to cook myself something special. Because that’s what you do for holidays when your boyfriend is out of town for work. Even obscure holidays that have nothing to do with your location or cultural heritage. Everybody knows that.
Here in the Southern U.S. of A, we generally tend to eat cabbage (for money) and black-eyed peas (for luck) on New Year’s Day. These are actually new traditions for me, that I didn’t discover until my first New Year’s in Texas in ’08, when I woke up hungover at a friend’s house and she proceeded to shuffle me off to her grandmother’s and shovel these weird things onto my plate, with little to no explanation. And thus was I introduced to the concept of food as symbol (after I sobered up enough to have someone to explain it to me, that is).
Apparently, the Chinese have a similarly weird tradition of associating their food with symbolic superstition, to an insane degree. Here’s a list of foods and their meanings that I was able to find. Seriously, just take a look. Go on, I’ll wait…
See what I mean? So, rather than trying to dig through all the symbolism, I decided to go with something that several sources seemed to think were fairly agreed upon Lunar New Year staples. The first is Buddha’s Delight, a pretty fantastic vegetarian smorgasbord that is actually meant to be eaten by an entire family and symbolizes the Buddhist tradition of cleansing your body by abstaining from meat (I substituted the carrots for shitake mushrooms). The other, was a whole, steamed fish, which apparently is a homonym for prosperity in Chinese. There is a saying, apparently, that literally translates as both “let every year be plentiful” and “let every year have fish”!
I’m not gonna lie, the Buddha’s Delight was great. The tofu kind of fell apart on me and it was WAY more than I thought it would be, but it tasted good. But honestly, the highlight of this entire culinary escapade was indisputably the fish. I have never in my life cooked a complete whole fish before. I was super excited. I may have Facebooked about it a little. And so now, I present to you, the tale of my New Year’s fish, told in pictures and Facebook statuses:
So there you have it! My Lunar New Year dinner! Never mind that it took me nearly three hours to put together (and that doesn’t count shopping time and the two extra trips to the store I had to make because I forgot something :P), it was glorious and I would do it again in a heartbeat! Preferably with friends and some paper lanterns next time… 🙂
Gong Xi Fa Cai (Happy New Year) everyone!