I’m ashamed to admit that for a second year running, Chinese New Year has somehow managed to slip my radar! If a friend hadn’t asked me what I had planned for it, I wouldn’t have known it was just around the corner… while we’re at it, which charming animal are we celebrating again?! This is quite an embarrassing confession considering I’ve celebrated this for as long as I can remember.
Five year old me was probably most excited about getting dressed up in a new outfit, most likely an attention grabbing red number, to ring in the new year. Ten year old me would have been eagerly anticipating the feasts my parents would put on, inviting all the aunties and uncles, both real ones and pretend ones (those of you from Asian families will know what I mean) for an evening of indulgence. Fifteen year old me would have definitely been hanging out for the little red envelopes filled with cold hard cash for that nice little shopping spree or day out with friends.
Now that I have my shiny new ‘not getting kicked out of the UK’ residence card, the weekend jaunts are back on! So far we’ve escaped to Gdansk and Milan for the weekend, have some serious port drinking to do in Porto at the end of the month, and plans to see out the year in Madrid and settle into the new year in Morocco! We don’t have any set rules for choosing our travel destinations – sometimes it’s where the cheap flights take us, sometimes it’s actually somewhere we’ve wanted to go for ages, and sometimes we pull out the random generator and let the magic of an excel spreadsheet pick for us. But there is one thing they all have in common…
Wherever we go, the likelihood of a certain someone and I overindulging is extremely high. Ok, let’s be honest, it’s more like a foregone conclusion. When we’re away, I want to try everything which means by the time we get home, we crave something soothing and nourishing; our current welcome-home-meal of choice is a super simple, but super tasty bowl of dumplings in a chicken and miso broth. The trick to making this snappy dinner? Having a batch of dumplings in the freezer ready to go!
My earliest yum cha memories involve Sunday lunches with my family at one of the many Chinese restaurants along Courtenay Place in Wellington.
They were usually gluttonous affairs; though there were only five of, us, we each had our favourites and would not be satisfied without ordering our dish. Sometimes this was easier said than done… there were the days where you got seated at a dud table the servers never came past, or perhaps you would be next after a huge group who took everything, or worst of all, that particular restaurant didn’t even serve the dish you were craving!
Then fast forward some years, though I’m not exactly sure when it happened, yum cha became cool. The monopoly Chinese restaurants had was eroded by trendy places serving jazzed up replicas for twice the price and at night. You didn’t have to wait until weekend lunches to get your fix of steamed dumplings… you could indulge at dinner time with a drink far less cleansing than jasmine tea.
After 17 days without cellphone contact, internet access, and pretty much any news from the outside world, it was time to leave Cuba. These technological comforts are available for those really desperate but after finding out the high cost and low quality, we decided to just cut ties with our gadgets. Travel was arranged the old fashioned way- we purchased our bus tickets from the stations a couple of days earlier, rooms were booked through word of mouth and trust… there was absolutely no price comparison or Tripadvisor reviews to consult. In many ways, it was easier, even liberating to just hope for the best and deal with whatever hand you get dealt! Generally, it’s a pretty decent hand considering what you’re paying.
But my sense of nostalgia was starting to fade, 17 days of disconnect was my upper limit. It was time to check those emails, send that ‘we’re alive text’ to the mums, and catch up on the Facebook gossip! Unfortunately, all this came along with a severe change of climate- flying into Toronto we were greeted by snow and the sharp drop to near freezing temperatures. I was no longer watching my step to avoid the endless dog poop (it seems Mexicans and Cubans aren’t big pooper scoopers) but now making sure I wasn’t going to slip on the icy pavements. Oh joy.