Bringing bustling Beijing to arid Arizona

Whole roasted 5-spice chicken.

Noodles with leafy greens/veggies (stir-fry).

Baked spring rolls.

Lettuce cups with meat/veggie filling.

Citrus cake with candied oranges.

**********

The menu suggests otherwise but I’m really not Chinese! ūüėÄ ūüėÄ I do, however, oft say I’m an Asian trapped in a Western body.

Monday, Feb. 8, ushers in the Chinese New Year. Year of the Fire Monkey, 2016 is.

If there’s one thing that’s been missing from my life for years … around 13, if you must know! … it’s this four-letter word: play.

Fun fell from my life vocabulary long, long ago.

And¬†I’ll be danged if I’m gonna let the Year of the Monkey, a creature of irrepressible¬†curiosity and play, pass in the same manner as all the others: Slogging through life, just ekeing¬†by, surviving – barely – doing the lamest and crappiest jobs you can (or cannot) imagine! with no to few friends, social network or support.

In short: Were I president of the United States (am not, will never be) giving the State of the Union address, I’d have to pronounce it: dire.

So here comes the Chinese New Year! Here comes The Monkey!

And what better way to celebrate both it and a personal commitment to restoring fun and play in my life than: a party!

(Since I loooove to cook, especially and mostly for others, a party seems the most obvious way to crack this hardened shell of isolation and loneliness.)

A small party. Six, myself included. That’s about what my little mobile home can accommodate.

*Note to self: Check thrift stores for one more folding chair.

For weeks I’ve been scouring the Web for traditional Chinese New Year’s recipes. The Asians aren’t like Americans. Everything everything everything they do and eat at¬†New Year’s has meaning. Symbolism.

I have to take into account that I’m not in Asia anymore. There’s no strolling¬†to the local markets and street stalls dripping with whole ducks, strange fish of unknown identities and never-seen-before veggies.

I must make do in the little town/city in the middle of Arizona! This is desert and mountain country. Not remote exactly but neither near anything resembling even an Asian market! So what I can procure locally essentially dictates the menu for my Chinese Monkey Party!

Here’s what’s behind the¬†chosen Good Luck foods:

1. The whole¬†5-spice chicken.¬†Bring a chicken or duck to¬†the table whole, then slice; to carve before is to cut your health. (Personally, I wanted to cook the traditional whole fish but not everyone likes fish so …)

2. Noodles with leafy greens/veggies. Long noodles represent longevity. Do not cut them while cooking. Diners twirl them whole onto their forks or chopsticks.

3. Spring rolls. Their shape resembles¬†gold bars, representing wealth. (And as my first foray into springs rolls from scratch — save springing for premade wrappers — it¬†promises to¬†be interesting!)

4. Lettuce cups. The Cantonese word for lettuce sounds like rising fortune. Further raise your fortune by filling with other lucky foods.

5. Citrus cake topped with candied oranges. Citrus/tangerines represent wealth and orange brings luck. (I mean, how can anyone look at the color orange and NOT be uplifted?!)

I’ve perused¬†dozens upon dozens — nay,¬†upwards of 100! — of recipes. (My discerning ability¬†is a great gift.)

I’m very satisfied with the chosen menu and recipes, especially within context: This is deserty small-town Arizona, not bustling Beijing!

Soon I’ll post the invitation in one of the Meetup groups I belong to. I hope five people will wanna come celebrate the arrival of The 2016¬†Monkey!

I’ve already crafted 12 paper lanterns in the lucky colors of red and yellow to hang from the ceiling. Super easy too! Another post perhaps?

Stay tuned. Cooking pix and recipes to come. Then you too can play and cook along … a cyberspace case¬†of monkey-see monkey-do. ūüôā

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