Close your eyes and imagine this with me.
It is Chinese New Year’s Eve, the air is abuzz with activity, filled overwhelmingly with Chinese New Year songs that many are starting to find garish and overly traditional for our generation. Everywhere you look, you can see red banners, crimson red decorations, and mandarin oranges. But it is “Reunion Dinner” day – the day when most Chinese who still celebrate Chinese New Year make their way home from all over the world, to have dinner with their families, an act of togetherness and desire to be reunited and welcome the new year. Imagine toasting with wine, beer, or any other type of beverage, after a hearty home-cooked dinner, the table overflowing with handmade dumplings, brimming with all the ingredients for the steamboat set right in the center, aromas of steaming hot soups, stir-fried vegetables and fresh meats swirling in the air.
Alright, open your eyes now if you wish. And don’t shoot me right now. I know you’re thinking what the hell I am doing, talking about Chinese New Year when we are still at least 5 months away from the next Chinese New Year.
I’m thinking back on the many times that these reunion dinners have created such feelings of warmth, love, and family closeness – the idea that despite it being a traditional custom, so many Chinese still adhere to the custom because of the notion of togetherness it represents.
Busy lives = No more time for conversations?
As our lives develop, so do our habits, and as technology advances, we become less patient, and demand everything now. In this inevitable evolution, we find that our families and friends may have moved on in paths so different from ours, that there is no longer time for coffee and long conversations, of bonding and sharing. Work or school becomes increasingly dominant in our lives, we begin to live for work, and forget to cherish the families and friends that have made our success possible. We stop eating together, we stop talking. Our lives diverge.
Thankfully, we still have to eat.
No matter how advanced technology is and can be, humans are still innately primitive, and we generally respond positively and willingly whenever there is a gathering with the intention to feast on good food, in the company of cherished friends and family.
An invitation to a home-cooked meal rarely gets turned down.
I remember a phrase that was used quite often when I was growing up – many housewives and women used to say that “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” I had a huge laugh out of it when I was still a kid. But now, I’m beginning to understand the concept behind it, and its significance beyond capturing a guy’s affection. This phrase can literally be expanded to mean “The way to most hearts is through their stomachs”.
More often than not, an invitation to a home-cooked meal, representative of hours of preparation and effort, is not just a “Hey I’ve got some leftovers in the fridge, want to help me get rid of them?” question. It actually translates to “I know cooking takes time and energy but I thought you were worth every bit of it. Come and share these goodies with me, and in the meanwhile, let’s have a good chat and a laugh or two.”
The response you would normally get, is, a loud yes and a happy heart, complete with a burp or two.