Thursday, February 10, 2005

Visiting the mother in law family day

Back in Indonesia, most Chinese do not celebrate Chinese New Year and some that still do that, they only celebrate it just for a day or two with both of their family. But the authentic way in celebrating Chinese New Year are much more complex than that. The whole process of celebrating Chinese New Year takes almost 1 month of time. A very elaborate holiday. It's not only about eating but it's about the hierarchy on who you are suppose to visit on certain day. I would not try to explain this from the religion point of view because I am not a Buddhist, so I can only try to explain this from a foreigner point. A foriegner point that do not necessary get the actual translation that is. So forgive the mistakes that I would definitely going to make.

The way I experienced it, on new year's eve, you stay with your own family, if you happen to live with your parents in law then you include your parents in law in the celebration. That is what we did yesterday in Grand Hotel. But if you live separately, then today is the day for you to have your own family dinner. Even the time when you are supoose to distribute your Ang Pao ( red envelop ) has to follow certain rules , like at the end of dinner time. You can just throw your envelops left and right right away even if most people wish you do since the envelops contain money. There are also certain rule on who suppose to give and get the envelops. Pretty much if this year you are becoming a married couple, then all your priveledge of receiving the envelops are gone ! Instead it is now your job to give to your parents. And if you are already working and able to support your life yourself, the rule also dictate you not to receive but to give to your parents, your siblings that is still not independent like you and all of your nieces and nephews.

On the actual day of Chinese New Year, you are suppose to celebrate this day in your father's home. So all those envelops that you are carefully filled with money has to be ready to be hand out to everybody of your father family side. This is what we called as your actual family. If you are a girl and you are now married to a family, that means you don't belong to your family anymore, everything you are now dictate by your responsibility to your husband's family. In other word, they own you now ! That is why a lot of Chinese family do not want to have a girl because they know they will eventually loose her to another family. Off course now in the more modern day we don't really practice this to the fuller. They still expect you to know where your loyalty is though.

Since I stay with my parents in law, so on Chinese new year day we just stay home, that is when I wrote the previous entry on staying quietly at home yesterday.

Then on the second day, your mother family's side gets to be visited by you. On this day, you go from one house to another of everybody from your mother's side. Depending on how much time you have off course. We are considered lucky because most of my mother in law's siblings are living under the same roof. What I mean by that is they live in a 5 floors building. That building is owned by the oldest brother of my mother in law. Since he own it, he can take the first floor, that shows people who own the land of that building. For each floor above it, the floor plan is one apartment for each floor. So total there are 5 apartments but the oldest uncle rent 2 apartments to somebody else. Since he own the land, I guess the rent money goes to his pocket. Leaving his 2 other brothers nothing except their own apartments. I am not even sure if they are free to sell their apartments. Anyway, that is not what I am trying to explain here.

So today we arrived in this family building. First we went to the fifth floor to eat 15 dishes that are proudly cooked by the my mom sister in law. She happens to be the best cook in the family so needless to say that her foods are superb. And when she found out that my family is coming today, she went and spent $ 100 on lobsters alone. She served lobsters, abalones, very expensive fish eggs that taste so creamy like cheese, sea cucumbers, pig hearts that is so smooth and creamy I have no clue at all on who she can achieve this ( none of my recipe books ever teaches how you can do this and I have probably 75 books in Chinese recipes so far ). Some very expensive mushrooms dishes, 3 different soups, pig intestines, sausages, and more. Liquers also being distribute continously. In my case a very expensive and fragrant tea. A great tea can cost you back at least US$ 300 per pack. Chinese new year is really not the time to save money here....

We were warned not to overfed ourselve on the first dining invitation because when everything being tasted and praised, we were dragged to the third floor where another of my mother's brother live. Again, we were serve another 15 dishes ! I can't even remember them anymore ! If previously we were introduced to Taiwanese local wine made by the aborigines and later we were sent downstair with an extra bottle to bring home. This time it's Whisky time. In my case, just soup please.... Again after finish eating and praising my other mother in law's sister in law cooking, we were sent to the first floor with more food gifts to bring home.

Barely able to walk to the first floor, we were sent to the dinning table to sit and eat another 15 meals !!! I don't even care anymore what I eat by then. It all goes into automatic gear. Eat, drink, eat , drink, praise them, promise them by this time the praises and promises flew everywhere. No one truly listen anymore since unless you are on a non-alcohol diet like me, I guess you are pretty much almost drunk by then. Or maybe I don't do them justice because I know how much alcohol these people can consume without breaking a sweat. I learn it the first time I met them in 1996. They love to have a guillible person like me to play trick on ! Even those grandmoms can outdrink you in a jiffy ! I am lucky that my husband take what ever toast they throw at me ! I am luckier that my husband can drink 6 big bottle of beers and still be able to walk a straight line ! That keep me free from a drop of alcohol. I am not trying to say that I did not drink. I do, but I am smart enough not to do it today in front of these people. I would rather pretend that I never drink.

As I explained above that by this time I don't care anymore what food that I was served. Well.... bad mistake. They trick me again into eating the pork testicles !!!! These people loves to trick me !!! They pretend they can't explain it to me in English, some said that it was a chicken kidney. They force me to eat the big "kidney", not the small one. It turn out that the small "kidney" actually is chicken' testticle while the big one that I ate belong to a pig !!!! No wonder they are snickering behind my back...... fooled again.....

I think this time they serve XO or something similar. I don't really know . I am too busy trying to try to erase the taste of the pig testicle out from my mouth by drinking a lot of juice.

Anyway, the end is near, my husband think we have enough of his mom family side for now so he took us to a 24 hrs mall. Yes they open 24 hrs. They are big and futuristic looking. I bought tons of recipe books again. From there, my husband wanted to take us to the night market nearby for dinner. If you think that by then you are just too full to eat, well... you are right but eating at a night market is just too much fun to pass on ! So you just have to force yourself again to eat ! But since the night market is not open yet at 5.30, we were sent back to that building again to wait for only half an hour until the market open. In the mean time, at the first floor, they serve us again with more food..........

When we arrived in the night market, we are still able to eat the famous stinky tofu dishes, BBQ corns that taste like eating meat because of the sauce they put on it ( they taste better than my description ). My father eat his favorite peanut soup. I tried spicy fried chicken, drink jelly drink , candied strawberries, and still my husband insist to buy me fried stinky tofu to bring home since I just can't eat anything anymore then.

So that conclude my second day on Chinese New Yearand I am still survive to write this entry. Wish me luck next time.

We start this eating marathon from this her apartment in the fifth floor. Those food you see on the table are not all that she served. She will keep on adding more dishes later on. Posted by Hello

The food are just keep on coming. In this photo you haven't seen the drink yet as well. Posted by Hello

Here, we move to the third floor apartment where different family of my mother in law's are living. Again, we were served so many dishes that I can't even remember. Here you see the liquer is being served by my father in law. Posted by Hello

Let's go to the mall now ! Posted by Hello

This is the 24 hrs mall. They open less than 3 yrs ago. Great place to shop but just remember that this place is huge, so conserve your energy when you can ! Posted by Hello

The interior of the 24 hrs mall. Posted by Hello

This mall is design to look very futuristic. Posted by Hello

After dropping off our shopping bags at my uncle in law's home, we are going to the night market nearby for more food. Well, at least we already work some calories off by walking and carrying our shopping bags in that big mall. Posted by Hello

Welcome to Rao He Street Night Market where they sell the best stinky tofu ! Posted by Hello

Even though it is Chinese New Year holiday this place is packed. Posted by Hello

Let's eat some stinky tofu ! Actually this is not the best yet because the best one is just too crowded ! But this one taste pretty good too. I did not eat though because I just saw my favorite BBQ corn is being sold nearby. Posted by Hello

My son is very interested with the small turtles that are swimming around in this orange tub of water. He wants us to buy him some and bring them back to Canada ! Posted by Hello

What a juicy looking watermellons ! Taiwanese people loevs their fruits very much, Even when they walk around in the market they loves to munch their fruits ! Well, it's healthier than other alternatives right? Posted by Hello

My favorite BBQ corn !!! Posted by Hello

My son play some game in the night market. Posted by Hello

My son's first attempt at writing Chinese. The word means "Exit". I guess after a week here and keep seeing this word on the highways and malls he now knows how to write it. He really makes his father's family so happy because they have trouble communicating with him since he is only fluent in English and Bahasa Indonesia. Posted by Hello

1 comment:

MWM said...

Thank you so much for your wonderful narrative about your New Year's celebration. I enjoyed reading it and I couldn't help but smile at the thought of you trying to eat so much food. Happy New Year to you and to your family!