Happy Lunar New Year! That would be the good one. Today kicks off the Year of the Sheep (羊), or more specifically, the Year of the Wood Sheep. Depending on the circles that one runs in, the Year of the Sheep is also known as the Year of the Ram (which is a boy sheep – you can tell by looking in back and under) and the Year of the Goat; the ambiguity arises because the character 羊 refers equally to both species of delicious ruminants, but suffice that they’re both delicious and this is generally a year of prosperity. Oh wait – I said they were delicious twice.
I’m looking for the Year of the Sheep to be a promising and prosperous one like it’s generally predicted to be.
It’s not that the Year of the Horse was bad – the fortune tellers said I would be easily offended, maintain my low profile, concentrate on making ends meet, remember not to eat too much for each meal, and watch out for knife wounds. That would be sort of, yes, yes, sort of and didn’t get any though transglutaminase was readily available just in case.
The making ends meet part was easy because the first part of the year had me imitate a doomsday prepper because of the provincial election and a reminder that I continue to live in the fabled tax haven that is the Chez Nous. I did indeed have some prosperity spending time observing the Buffet Fu Lam, managed to see my pal Amy and Mister R in San Francisco, served tostadas that licked you back, made something that had grown men squealing like little girls, cooked for wine royalty, and tried something that made me think it was time to listen to some Enya and go for that bikini wax. Not too shabby actually in hindsight (not the Enya part).
But what would be cool for the Year of the Sheep? To have no buffet but even more prosperity than the Year of the Horse.
Yes, I know – it’s coming. Could be 1 month, 3 months 6 months etc etc. I’m a patient kind of guy.
Anyhoo, what about the requisite things that are of upmost importance on the Eve to help ring in the Year of the Sheep? Cleaning? Yes. Making sure all the garbage is out before midnight so that whatever residual bad luck gets kicked to the curb? Yes. The Meal? Nope. It’s a weekday and a school night so my parents decided they wanted to round up the family and host The Meal in its entirety.
My Mom’s a machine when it comes to putting our a New Year’s Eve meal. She says that there wasn’t a whole lot of preparation but this is what came out of the kitchen. These are the fourteen items that made it onto the table to accompany steamed rice.
The Fish. Requisite dish number 1, which we don’t eat on the Eve so that we can show that prosperity continues from one year to the next. I think it’s a striped bass but I can’t be certain and I forgot to ask.
Curry beef samosas. I only managed to take this photo after people had started eating these. There were significantly more of them with most of the white empty portions on either side of the plate being covered by samosas.
Barbecue roast pork, aka char siu; from Dobey and Andy. My father braved the last-minute shopping masses in Chinatown to get this (brr… I’ve done this in the past and the experience is akin to standing in the way of the racks during the annual bridal gown sale at Filene’s Basement).
Roast duck, also from Dobey and Andy.
Green asparagus and bacon. This got finished before I got a chance to try it, so I had to settle for the little bit of liquid left in the plate.
Mustard greens. It’s for longevity and good fortune.
Sweet and sour shrimp. U8-12 shrimp (aka the “extra colossal”), which I at least helped prep.
Taiwanese pork sausages.
Spicy chicken (requisite dish number 2).
Panko-fried scallops. I actually fried these à la minute to help out my Mom, which is surprising because frying is not one of the things I generally do (much less do well).
Clear soup with daikon and pork.
Soy eggs. This is the first of my exactly two contributions to the meal.
Red-braised pork hocks and trotters – the second of my exactly two contributions to the meal.
Not shown was the strawberry cheesecake for dessert, because we like to have something light.
Compare to my vegetation-heavy implementation on a school night for the Year of the Horse – not quite the same because there’s significantly more variety and protein. It’s leaps and bounds way, way better than someone I know, who can’t cook, whose significant other has decided to be a vegan for Lent (!), and rather than get take-away was relegated to having a New Year’s Eve meal of instant ramen. Oy vey!
And finally, like a good son I actually did present a red envelope to my parents as a thank you and to wish them good fortune for the coming year. Spreading some lucky money around ultimately means that it eventually comes around too. That’s the saying.