Happy New Year of the Ox!

12th February 2021 sees the start of the Chinese New Year of the Ox. People born in the year of the Ox are thought to be strong, healthy, hard-working and stubborn. If you were born in 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, you are an Ox!

Ruminating on cows …

In English we say cow and beef, subtly differentiating the meat from the animal it’s derived from. But Cantonese is much more literal, it’s simply cow meat or pig meat, etc. Call it as it is, why beat around the bush? And to be vegetarian translates as to eat fibre or pulp. Very appetising!

Actually, vegetarianism isn’t a word usually associated with Chinese culture. But beyond tofu, a world of mock meat lined the shelves of Chinese supermarkets way before most people even knew it was possible to fashion meat from soya and gluten. Aside from tins of curious fake smoked oysters, you can find vegetarian duck or chicken made from soya, and sesame prawn toasts made of gluten. (It’s better than it sounds, honest!)
Chinese New Year celebrations span 15 days, with different customs allocated to each day. The large family reunion dinner, with its symbolic foods, usually takes place on New Years Eve. But a lesser known custom is that on New Year’s Day we should only eat vegetarian food. (It makes complete sense, when you think about it, after a gut-busting night of feasting.)

Here’s a random, veg-related, language morsel for you to chew on!
The Cantonese word for avocado is ngau-jau-lei. Translated, it means butter pear. Very descriptive! … and the word for butter (ngau-jau) literally means cow oil! That’s something to think about next Veganuary.

Until then, wishing you good health and happiness above all else this year. Stay well and stay strong in the year of the Ox.
Kung Hei Fat Choi

Mo and Dave

Happy New Year of the Rat!

You’re never more than 6 feet away from a rat in London! Apparently, that’s not actually true, but it’s sensational enough to be memorable. Rats have a poor reputation but are quite remarkable creatures, having excellent navigational skills and the ability to memorise complicated routes (unlike myself!) Their swimming skills are particularly impressive. These rodents can swim for half a mile across open water and hold their breath for 3 minutes whilst squeezing themselves through narrow pipes! Thus, they can thrive in the sewer systems of our cities. 

January 25th 2020 welcomes the Chinese New Year of the (metal) Rat. The Rat is the first of 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac, so here we begin a new cycle. People born in the year of the Rat are thought to be quick-thinking, optimistic, energetic, creative, thrifty and successful, but content with a quiet life!

2020 also has a ‘yun’ (leap) month. (I told you about those in a previous post – they happen every few years in the Chinese calendar.) So, you’ll be pleased to know, you’ll get a second chance at April this year, just in case you make a mess of it the first time around!
If you were born in 2008, 1996, 1984, 1948, etc., you are a Rat. This is your year, so get out there and pursue those pipe dreams – may they lead to exciting and fragrant destinations!
Wishing you a happy and successful year of the Rat!

Kung Hei Fat Choi

Kintsugi and the Art of Repairing

Scarf repaired with crystal beads

Dave (@squeakypics) accidentally ripped my scarf while hanging it out to dry!

My sister bought that scarf for me many years ago. It isn’t expensive or made of fine cashmere (I dare say she picked it up for a fiver in Leeds market), but it’s proved to be one of the most useful items in my wardrobe. I’ve worn it with everything, to every occasion – to work meetings, to weddings, to the supermarket – and I ALWAYS take it on holiday. In fact, I seem to have worn it threadbare!

I wasn’t sure what to do with this damaged item as it couldn’t be stitched easily without showing the repair work. It couldn’t be given to charity because it was damaged (and, anyway, if it was wearable then I still wanted it!) If I threw it out I know I’d just try to replace it with exactly the same item in the same colour.

In contemplating its fate I remembered a Japanese art form called Kintsugi – the art of fixing broken pottery. The broken pieces are put back together using lacquer and gold dust, making the pot even more beautiful than before. A missing fragment might even be replaced with a piece from a different pot. I love that the cracks become decorative and more interesting, and the repair is seen as just an event in the life of the pot.

Inspired by this I have repaired my scarf, making a feature of the damage with crystal beading. It will tear again. The fabric is old and the fibres are weak. But each time it happens I plan to add another beautiful scar to strengthen the fabric until, one day, it will have evolved into a completely different scarf.