During the two-week Chinese New Year celebration, meats, fruits, fish, vegetables and noodles will all be consumed because what you eat at your first meal that day will determine your good fortune, your health, wealth, and happiness.
Many Chinese American families like to make special holiday foods. They spare no expense and are especially lavish with various assortments of exotic dishes like eggs that become “silver ingot,” mushrooms are “opportunities,” chicken is “phoenix,” and a pork dish is “Golden Coins.” Poultry signifies family unity; oranges and tangerines mean wealth and good fortune; while pork provides happiness. A steamed fish means that all good things will last forever.
One of their specialties is a hairy-looking seaweed called “fat choy,” that is savored as much for its name as for its flavor. The two words, in Cantonese, sound like to “prosper,” so their most popular New Year’s dish is Jai or Monks food since it is meatless. This dish originated with the Buddhist monks who went begging for food door-to-door and were given meager portions of vegetables but being inventive cooks, they came up with this vegetarian dish.
During this time I find myself thinking about one my favorite dishes.
BAK JAM GAI
(White Velvet chicken)
1 whole fryer,
2 Tbsp. dry sherry (if desired)
2 Tbsp. salt
2 Tbsp. Chinese sesame oil
Slice of ginger
Submerge chicken into large pot of boiling water after adding salt, slices of ginger and sherry. Place lid on pot and boil for 20-30 minutes. Turn off flame. Allow chicken to cook in the heated water for another half hour. Remove chicken and rub with sesame oil. Chop chicken into neat little pieces and place evenly on dish. Serve with following ingredients in small dish.
1 large minced ginger
4 Tbsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. white pepper
Bon appetit — hope you like this easy recipe. You can use the broth also and toss in some frozen peas or guy choy or napa.
Parents, grandparents and friends will be honored with gifts such as oranges, candy, nuts or pastries. This period promotes benevolence; reunions, family unity, remembrance and people will pay homage to their deceased ancestors.
While many people born in the Year of the Dragon along with their families, friends and relatives enjoy special foods, events and festivities, much can be remembered from the past because many momentous events took place during the previous Dragon years.
On a positive note, in 1916,
Owen-Keating Law addressed Child labor. Congress outlawed the interstate trade of goods produced in factories where children under 16 worked more than eight hours a day. It was thought that some 13 percent of the textile work force were underage. The law was struck down in 1918 by the Supreme Court which stated that Congress had exceeded its power to regulate interstate commerce.
In 1928 Mickey Mouse, in Steamboat Willie, debuts and audiences in New York’s Colony Theatre watched, fascinated and captivated by the landmark sound cartoon. This film is just the beginning for the genius that we will come to know as Walt Disney.
In 1940, Ida May Fuller, 35-year-old widow in Vermont was the first recipient of a U.S. social security check. The total sum of the first pay out to eligible American pensioners equaled $75,844, of which $22.54 was what Ida May Fuller received. When she died at the age of 75, she had received over $20,000.
In 1952, the first feature-length 3-D film, Bwana Devil, opened in November, and kicked off a craze. Throngs of moviegoers donned goofy goggles to experience the thrill and studio executives embraced this device but it took a year before audiences learned to associate this gimmick with poor quality and 3-D quickly died at the box office.
In 1964, Cassius Marcellus Clay, 22-year-old Olympic gold medalist from Louisville, Kentucky, entered the ring against Sonny Liston, the fierce heavy-weight champion of the world. Fight mavens feared the worse since Liston was bigger, tougher and meaner than baby faced, brash, likable Clay. But they didn’t have to worry long because lightning fast and powerfully deceptive Clay prevailed, knocking out the champ with a blow so quick that many of the assembled multitude missed it altogether.
In 1988, with the rise of E-shopping, everyone was able to shop right from home due to new technology and the Internet.
On a more ominous note,
In 1916, an explosion of ammunition at the loading docks in Toms River Island, New Jersey killed seven and wounded 35, and wreaked $40 Million worth of damage and the suspected cause was German sabotage.
In 1928 London children had to be rescued from their homes after the river Thames burst its banks from heavy rains that caused serious floods. It was the worst for several hundred years.
On August 21st. 1940, Leon Trotsky, exiled Bolshevik, was killed with an ice pick in Mexico City. Assassin Ramon Mercader, apparently acted on Joseph Stalin’s orders.
In December, 1952, London’s industrial and home furnaces belched out some 2,000 tons of sulfur dioxide and other toxic pollutants daily. An unusual weather system trapped the contaminants in the atmosphere, enveloping the city in filthy smog. By the time the killer fog lifted three weeks later, the poisonous gas had killed 4,000 people.
In 1964, in Russia, the Central Committee of the Communist Party unanimously voted to strip Nikita Krushchev of all party posts and he was ousted. His turbulent eleven year reign had left him without a single group of constituents.
On January 28,1986, millions of television viewers watched in horror and will never forget the Space Shuttle Challenger that broke apart, a mere 73 seconds into its flight after a seemingly routine takeoff , and exploded in front of our eyes, at Cape Canaveral, Florida, killing all seven crew members aboard.
In 2012, the Year of the Dragon will be full of surprises, where people will throw caution to the winds, roll up their sleeves, be full of ambition and energy for colossal, overambitious and daring projects. It would be wise to be cautious and not get drawn into this and overestimate ourselves or our potentials in this combustive year because things might appear better than they actually are.
It’s true that during Dragon years, fortunes as well as disaster will come in massive waves. This could be a year of violent acts of nature and tempers will flare throughout the world with everyone staging real or imaginary revolts against constrictions. The mighty Dragon, in this electrifying and turbulent atmosphere will affect us all.
If you want to see more of Valerie Lee’s writings and her book, “The Jade Rubies,” please go to her blog at www.valerieleeworks.wordpress.com