My family is a little, erm, unconventional. My dad is from Hong Kong and my mom is from China, but they met in Canada in the early 1970s. I was born in Vancouver and raised as a Chinese kid in a white neighbourhood. Case in point: the last time I was in Hong Kong, I was five years old. I got off the plane, saw hordes of Chinese people, and asked my mom if we were in Chinatown. Yup.
So I’ve grown up with this mixture of Chinese and Canadian cultures. For instance, my mom is a devout Christian and eschews most Chinese superstitions. But, she still refuses to clean the house on New Year’s Day for risk of sweeping away good spirits, and she arranges furniture according to the principles of feng shui.
Our Christmas traditions are no exception. We usually have a big dinner party around Christmastime, but it’s just a matter of convenience whether it’s before or after Christmas. We invite 12-15 people over, crowd around the dining table, and eat with chopsticks from plates.
There’s always an organic, free-range turkey (even before it was trendy to eat that way). We have never done a traditional stuffing, so the bird is usually hollow. One year we stuffed it with rice. That was pretty tasty. We baste the turkey with soya sauce and black beans.
Rather than the traditional western side dishes, the turkey is served with jasmine rice, shitake mushrooms on Chinese vegetables (bok choy, gai lan or something else), and other Chinese delicacies. The past few years, we’ve served these tofu-sheet wrapped mushroom things that are hand-made by a woman we know in Chinatown.
We serve wine with the meal because you’re supposed to, but the concept of wine-and-food pairing is lost on this crowd. After all, how do you find a single wine that goes with turkey, soya sauce and mushrooms?
Dessert is usually an assortment of my Christmas baking, or whatever I’ve decided to make that year. Last year it was a tiramisu. This year, it was supposed to be an opera cake (almond joconde, coffee buttercream and chocolate ganache) but we’ve cancelled the party due to inclement weather. Maybe we’ll reschedule when the snow lets up.