“Blwyddwyn Newydd Dda!” Which is to bid you “Happy New Year” in Welsh, though I received this from Elaine Beckham after I had done my usual international greetings in the January column. So, I’ll continue with “Gung Hay Fat Choy (Cantonese); Gung Shi Fa Sai (Mandarin); Chuc Mung Nam Moi (Vietnamese); and Sun Nien Fai Lok! Lastly, Akemashite omedeto gozaimasu! (That’s ah-kay-mah- shi-tay) Open the new year – congratulations (Japanese).”
Last Sunday, Jan. 10, we began the Year of the Snake, 4711 on the lunar cycle. Since we’ll be observing this for a couple of weeks and find a special way to celebrate, much the same way we do for St. Patrick’s Day even if we’re not Irish. But celebrate!
I was pleased to read the article about Annie Lawrence, who does such a remarkable job with calligraphy, an ancient art from the Eastern and Middle Eastern traditions, and more recent medieval scriptors. The skill reflects a certain pride in written records and documents. Highly stylized signatures have also included embellishments to avoid forgery; many of us have recently decried Treasury Secretary Jack Lew’s signature which will grace our paper currency. On Facebook it is unflatteringly compared to the squiggle on Hostess cupcakes, and that is enough to make this retired third-grade teacher weep. (Perhaps his third grade teacher also!)
I remember the shiny faces of my students when they advanced from printing manuscript and mastered the art of running their letters together in cursive. Most recently, D’Nelian was designed without a lot of loops to facilitate that better than the Palmer method which most of us were taught; it was also easier to teach. “Sign your work with pride,” we’d say.
I enjoyed my pre-lit Christmas tree, and it has now morphed into the Chinese New Year tree, decorated with bright red ornaments and all things Asian. I just love the lights brightening my evenings until the daylight hours are long enough. Sooner or later I must decide if it will segue into an Easter tree, with that movable feast (also based on the lunar calendar) arriving early about 40 days from now. My, how time does fly.
Chinese Sweet and Sour Pork
1-2 pounds country style pork spareribs
1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1 cup corn starch
Peanut oil for frying
1 white onion
1 green bell pepper
1 20-oz. can pineapple chunks or slices
Cut the meaty segments off the rib bones and discard strips of fat. Cut into chunks and marinate about 30 minutes in the soy sauce. Dredge in cornstarch, shaking off excess. Heat peanut oil, valued for its low smoke point, in a wok or deep pan.
Brown the meat in very hot oil, without crowding the pan; it may take two batches. Drain on paper towels. Meanwhile, clean, peel and cut the onion into wedges and pare the pepper to cut into wedges the same size. Stir fry with the last of the meat, but only just until slightly wilted.
Drain off any oil; return all the meat, onions and pepper to the pan. Pour in the juice from the pineapple and stir over medium heat until slightly thickened (the cornstarch works like flour). If serving immediately, add in the pineapple chunks. If preparing in advance, simply reheat before adding in the pineapple at the last moment, maintaining the integrity of the fruit. Serve hot with rice or noodles.
Fresh Chinese noodles are available in the produce department. Boil in slightly salted water in a large pot for just three minutes. Do not cut the noodles, to ensure the tradition of longevity. Drain in a colander and carefully place in a skillet of very hot peanut oil. Cook until golden on the first side, and then turn over like a pancake and brown until crisp on the second side. Drain on paper towels before serving. Sprinkle with salt, if you like. Very nice served with stir fried vegetables, with or without shredded chicken.
You may vary this and make an entrée of it by pan frying the noodles without crisping them. Meanwhile, clean and slice celery, white onions, bok choy, spring peas in pod, fresh mushrooms and canned water chestnuts and bamboo shoots (drained). Stir into the noodles, season with low-sodium soy sauce and toss until slightly wilted and flavors are released. Serve garnished with thinly sliced green onions. Enjoy!