Every year, as the Chinese New Year draws near, my extended family will hold its omnibus reunion dinner, so that each nuclear family will be free to have its own smaller reunion on the eve of the new year.
The combined reunion is attended by 40 to 50 family members, with the occasional would-be-family member joining in. The numbers depend on how many of us are in Singapore or have returned to Singapore, and have no important over-riding engagements that fall on the date picked.
Every year, the wife of the first born in my generation will fix the date for the omnibus reunion. This year the dinner was held unseasonably early on Jan 31, two whole weeks before the New Year, due to the fact that brother and wife had returned from Melbourne to Singapore earlier than usual to do missionary work in Batam. And they needed to be back home to his Church Downunder be4 their 4 weeks being away were over.
So, last Sunday night (Jan 31) saw us some 40+ strong gathered at Zhou’s Kitchen in Novena Square Two starting our $388+++ set menu dinner by tossing yu-sheng.
Before my father went to heaven rather suddenly and unexpectedly at the age of 87 in 2001, we tossed only vegetarian yu-sheng, as my father became a vegetarian from the age of 19 and never craved for meat. Sure, he was a Buddhist but his vegetarian diet was a preference rather than a sacrifice. Hence all our reunion dinners were at vegetarian restaurants, notably at places like Divine Realm etc which have all (co-incidentally) closed since his passing.
All this is a preamble to the diverse ways those at my table approached the dishes that were served.
A brother, still mourning the loss of his teenage daughter two years ago, has in recent times gone semi-vegetarian, by avoiding meat and fish wherever possible. So steamed drunken prawns and steamed live garoupa, sharksfin soup and chicken were off limits. Even with yu-sheng, he could only eat the salad.
His mum, who had taken a vow to avoid several kinds of foods, including garlic and onion, had also forsworn live prawns and fish. I’m with her where live prawns and fish are concerned, tho I’ve not taken any vows.
I just feel it’s so wrong to eat something that’s still swimming in the tanks only minutes be4, altho I’ve friends who tell me scornfully: “You mean it’s all right to eat something that’s been dead hours, days, weeks?”
My mum avoids all prawns, live or otherwise, so she skipped the prawn dish too. Alongside her, a sister-in-law skipped the sharksfin, chicken, prawns, fish and the raw fish. And of cos, mum’s picky Siti refused to eat yu-sheng.
In the end, only one or two dishes were fully cleaned out, including the dessert which was wholly and undilutedly vegetarian: cream of red bean with glutionous rice dumpling!
Considering our respective dietery quirks, I’m wondering whether we shouldn’t return to those vegetarian reunion dinners when Dad was around?
Perhaps next year!