I’ve always said that my Family are the most important thing in my life and food isn’t that far behind, I realise how contrived that sounds but the reality is that food has always played a large part in my life and with my family. Food memories are particularly evocative from childhood – How many of us remember the first time we ate something special? I’m particularly lucky in that both my parents were good cooks so not only did we (my sisters and I) all learn from helping out in the Family takeaway, but we also learnt the basics of all cooking from them – Not just home Chinese cooking.
When we were all younger, I particularly remember how we would all have family dinners together; Mum, Dad and whatever kids were at home would all cramp around a table (totalling 7 including Mum and Dad) and have dinner. I remember my Dad getting annoyed if we were late because we couldn’t start until everyone was at the table – or at least we had to be told we could eat. I also have memories of my sister and I picking at the food either before it was cooked – we used to nick thick slices of cucumber, douse it in malt vinegar before eating, another favourite was picking at the roasted cashew nuts before they were added to a stir fry. Come to think of it, we used to pick at whatever we could and (because we were kids) find it funny when Dad would catch us doing so and shout at us. I strongly believe that my Family are all so close to each other and our collective love of food stems from having family dinners as we grew up. I still remember how whenever we had visitors or one of my other sisters (and their new family) would come and visit and family dinner would become a special occasion and my parents would cook Special dishes that weren’t the norm – It would generally involve getting a roast meat from one of the Chinese restaurants in town. As we all grew older and one by one left home to go to University or new jobs and careers, family dinners where we all sat around the same table were less common as a result.
These days, any time my family gets together is a special occasion so we always try to all eat together – Be it at home or going out. I’ve already blogged about how I cooked for Chinese New Year to herald the Year of the Rabbit, now one of my sisters and her family are coming over from the USA in the coming weeks to visit. My family will, of course, be getting together as it’s been nearly a decade since she was last in the UK and I offered her a choice to go to a Chinese restaurant and having a banquet-style dinner. However, I also offered to cook for everyone (and there could be about 13 of us again) which she accepted. It’s going to be another massive effort but now that I’ve had a bit of time to reflect, I realise why I want to do it, despite it possibly meaning a fair bit of stress – Cooking has always been the one thing that brought my family together and (without being overly sentimental), cooking dinner for all my family together would be my way of showing how much I love them and how much they mean to me. Sure, it may be a bit cramped in my house with everyone congregating here and we may all end up having to sit on each other’s laps to eat (am only half-joking, here), but for me I don’t think there’s a greater expression of love I can show my family other than cooking a feast for them. I know that when I see everyone around the table again all tucking in and enjoying themselves, all the effort in preparing and cooking the food will be absolutely worth it.
So, over the next few weeks I will have a lot of planning and recipe testing to do in the meantime. Those (geographically) closer to me may be needed for tasting duties..