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What's Cooking?: May Your New Year Be Prosperous and Peaceful

According to the lunar calendar, Chinese New Year is today, February 8th.  It is the Year of the Monkey.  The most celebrated holiday in the Chinese culture and other Asian countries, I remember celebrating with visits to relatives and friends wishing them a prosperous new year as well as receiving guests in our home.  Along with the parades and fire cracking festivities are the endless procession of traditional dishes, sweets and treats that make one hope the party never stops.  It is with anticipation that I look forward to eating these specialty dishes that is traditionally serve on New Year’s Eve where the family members travel far and wide to be together to share this meal.  Happy times…

The truth is it is a love-hate relationship with this prestigious holiday.  Even as a child, I remember the excitement and thrill of the celebration like bees buzzing around to a crescendo yet the preparation weeks ahead strikes a frenzy that seems to carry us through sleepless nights to complete the apparently insurmountable tasks at hand.  As children we were not immune to this process as we helped to clean the home, fetched this and that, and scolded as the parents vent their anxieties.  The home has to be cleaned before the New Year to be sure the ghosts of the past with all its negative outlets be “swept” away so it will not tarnish the new year ahead.  The Chinese are a superstitious lot and my mom is going to make sure every dust meet its doom so we will face the New Year with good luck and bright future.  Although all the mountain of dos and don’ts may dampen the delight of this season, the New Year brings a sense of newness and new beginnings.  On New Year’s Day, not an angry word is spoken, no arguments ensued, and everything is bright and clean.  We are on our best behavior to insure good luck.  My parents are content.  Every New Year, as a child, I had gotten new outfits to wear, little red envelopes filled with money, and the most delicious foods that appeared during this time, my favorites being my mom’s assortment of dumplings and pastries.  Peace finally arrived after all the preparation!  The child’s heart is happy.

How I appreciated my parents’ hope for us in preparing for all those New Years.  Today I have scaled down considerably from my parents’ expectations.  I do not try to match their intensity for a perfectly clean house.  There is still an unconscious voice, however superstitious, that harkens me to sweep those evil spirits away so I dust, vacuum, and mop (with the help of my husband).  I prepare my grandchildren’s little red envelopes, and fill my house with oranges and flowers.  My children’s favorite New Year dishes are ready.  From the whirlwind of nonstop cooking, the 10-12 generous plates with multiple ingredients grace the table as we gather together for the New Year’s Eve dinner to welcome the New Year together as a family.   Today is New Year’s Day and tradition goes forward.  Peace again with new beginnings.  This woman’s heart is blessed.

Chinese Dim Sum by Hwa Lin Lee

Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees: Essential Techniques of Authentic Chinese Cooking by Kian Lam Kho

My Grandmother’s Chinese Kitchen: 100 Family Recipes and Life Lessons by Eileen Yin-Fei Lo

Easy Chinese Recipes: Family Favorites from Dim Sum to Kung Pao by Bee Yinn Low

Asian Dumplings: Mastering Gyōzas, Spring Rolls, Samosas and More by Andrea Nguyen's 

Yan Kit's Classic Chinese Cookbook by Yan Kit So

The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook by Patricia Tanumihardja

Dumplings All Day Wong: A Cookbook of Asian Delights from a Top Chef by Lee Anne Wong

The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen by Grace Young

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