Thursday, February 07, 2008

年初一, 新年的回憶...New Year Memoirs

…centre of the table sat a circular wooden dish, enameled and gilded, in whose compartments were oranges no larger than a hickory nut, air dried in sugar, and very palatable; an assortment of rock candies, small Chinese fruits, candied; betel nuts sliced and looking like nutmegs, and melon seeds–as inevitable in their theatres as peanuts in the pits of ours. A dish of mammoth oranges, a saucer of melon preserved in syrup, and many delicacies of which even through our accomplished interpreter, we could not learn the nature, only that they were all to be nibbled, and were not quite offensive to our unsophisticated palates. A saucer of American tobacco and another of the saffron-colored fine-cut Chinese tobacco always stood side by side...
Lunar New Year, Quesnel Forks, Cariboo Gold Rush circa 1890's.

I posted this because like everyone else at the time, my Great Grand Father had gone up to Quesnel Forks initially for gold, but saw an opportunity to provide food for those too busy looking for gold. He opened the only canteen/food store in town. I sojourned to Quesnel Forks in '93 & found the only building left in semi collapse with 年画 faded Chinese New Year idioms throughout, 菜乾 dried preserve vegetables still hanging intact from the ceiling & what appeared to be two fire pits for large woks in what would have been the kitchen.

My fondest memories of Lunar New Year were those growing up in 長沙灣 Cheung Sha Wan, my old hood in Nine Dragons 九龍. The smell of Joss Sticks conjuring spirits to summon me back to a long lost land. I'm guided through winding alleyways carpeted with firecracker flakes & the scent of burning offerings from the sprinkling of Buddhist temples dedicated to various Deities. 

長沙灣 was a congested, poor ghetto full of cottage industry factories (where Li Ka-shing 李嘉诚, now the richest man in Asia started out with his modest plastic flower manufacturing) & government housing projects with Mah & Pah whore houses fronting as barbershops. We didn't have much 紅包 (lucky money). But we always took time out & indulged with food over the Lunar New Year Holidays.

I remember gorging out on all sorts of deep-fried things like 芋头角 (taro grenades as we kids use to call 'em), and Mah & Granny always made these rock hard dumplings filled with sugar, coconut and peanuts inside then deep-fried. They were so rock hard you can throw them against the wall & cause some damage for sure! She doesn't make them anymore & now I miss them...perhaps only becuzz they were called 角仔, which sounds like my name sake in Cantonese.These taste memories lasted over 45 years in my mind until, one day, I realized the deliciousness was not from the taste but from the deep rooted memories of my soul to the land that raised me.

Today, we welcome Deities of the heavens and earth. Like many Buddhists, we abstain from meat consumption on the first day because it is believed that this will ensure longevity for them. But I thought it mirrored my Western New Year resolution which was to get healthy just so I can wreck myself good all over again with booze, drugs & dark angels LOL! Some also consider lighting fires and using knives to be bad luck on New Year's Day, so all food to be consumed were cooked yesterday.

Most importantly, the first day is a time when we visit the oldest and most senior members of the family. So I'm enjoying 羅漢齋 (Buddha's Delight) at Mah's house after my teaching day in the great white north (Seneca@York not Nunavut). Watched Asian game shows on teli (a contemporary NY tradition) with Mah tonite. This was a hilarious tribute to The Beatles.


Nishi said...

lmao!!!! where do you find this stuff?!?!? haha love his face doing "love me do"

Christina said...

you should see the one where he's in his crib, doing the same shtick in his wife-beater and underwear or was it diapers?...