It is no secret that Jews love Chinese food. Having missed our December 25th program: Chanukah, Christmas, and Everything Chinese, where visitors played mah-jong, made origami, and enjoyed Chinese food while exploring Chosen Food, I was determined to eat Chinese food on Christmas Day. This turned out to be an easy task in Lower Merion, Pennsylvania, where my husband and I spent Christmas Day with his family.
From family gatherings in Philadelphia, to endless dinners with friends in Baltimore, by mid-January, I had thought that my holiday eating spree was finally coming to an end. That’s when my friend/former bridesmaid, Lingsheng, told me she planned to host a potluck for the Chinese New Year. Knowing nothing about the traditions surrounding the Chinese New Year, I immediately jumped onto Wikipedia and learned that January 23, 2012 begins the year of the Dragon (I was born in the year of the Rabbit). Find out what year you were born in here: http://www.astrology.com/chinese-astrology
Though the potluck was in celebration of the upcoming Chinese New Year, guests were told that we did not have to cook Chinese food. When we got there, there was an impressive array of international dishes, from vegetarian and chicken fried rice to Japanese tofu curry to penne with fresh mozzarella, basil, and tomatoes.
Like many parties, the evening consisted of schmoozing with friends, eating and drinking good food, and playing games. However, a few elements made this celebration different from others. First, guests were encouraged to wear red, a color that is supposed to ward off bad fortune. Second, the hosts served tangerines for dessert, a symbol of luck. And finally, guests were given red packets filled with candy as a party favor.
While I chatted with Lingsheng in the kitchen, a sticker on her wall caught my eye. It said – “Love People: Cook them tasty food.” As I think back on all the holiday meals with family and friends, I realize this is the element that ties them all together. In both the Chinese and Jewish traditions, food is an expression of love. And in our case, food crosses cultural boundaries and has the ability to bring people together.