After the Cultural Revolution and recession years, China was very poor. There weren’t much food to eat. Even simple candy was a luxury. All the food was provided by the food stamps. Food was in great shortage. One person had 0.5 kg of meat in a month. Longing for the New Year dinner was the only way to alleviate my hunger for food.
During the New Year, the government rationed double amount of food for everyone. Some produce never been sold or seen in the market could provide for New Year event. My mother started to prepare New Year dinner two or three months early. She prepared snacks first and they could keep for a while. She sautéed sunflower seeds, broad beans, peanuts, and she own style sweet potato chips. Preparing meat was more work because there weren’t many kitchen appliances to help. She cut meat in small pieces to make sausage and used pine tree branches to make smoke meat.
I was amused to watch her performance. When we put everything together, I was astonished and thought my mother was amazing.
The meal wasn’t simple. Mother asked us to start with two kind salads. They included chicken and veg salads, and then she started adding some warm dishes with two sautéed veggies and two meat dishes. The third course we had steamed fish and pork ribs dishes. The next were soup combination using the chicken broth, it had many kinds of vegetables and meat in it, and steamed sweet sticky rice with dates, walnuts, and little black sugar. The last were two desserts. After the oily food, the fermented sweet sticky rice dessert cleaned the greasy sensation. The fermented sweet sticky rice contains natural gentle sweetness and alcohol.
The dinner was big and long. The process was from salads, sautéed dishes, steam, soup, and desserts. We had to warm the dishes again during the dinner. The meal was fabulous. The snacks were placed at the side for after dinner. The big dinner wasn’t only to satisfy for craving for food. It was meaningful of blessing, and the 12 dishes was a metaphor of 12 months to have prosperous life.
Today there are plenty and variety of foods. I have tried expensive meals in the fanciest of restaurants. But the tastes never beat the dinner I had as a child.