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