Wednesday, January 29, 2014

eating our veggies

Celebrating Chinese New Year has a particularly special meaning to me.  Even if it's just a day of celebration, eating traditional Chinese foods while my kids listen to their grandparent's stories of how they celebrated when they were children, and all the different foods from the sweet to the bitter that they worked hard to purchase for this special time of year.  It's a window into a culture that greatly influenced my views of family, the world, and my own interaction with both.

There are two habits that have been ingrained in me by my parents and upbringing.  These are not necessarily derived from a specific Chinese heritage per se, but a general sentiment by immigrants as a whole, who had to learn a new way of life in this country:  discipline and perseverance.

I recently watched a documentary on the "lost, jobless" generation...twenty and thirty-somethings that are over educated and underemployed.  I watched while young people were drinking wine and having sushi while discussing how underemployed they were, and how the markets have shifted so those lucky few who do have any work, whether it's in their desired field or not, resent not being promoted quicker into the more "ideal" positions that they were "trained" for.  Positions that their predecessors hold.  

As I watched this documentary, I thought about the generation (or two) that will follow them in the future.  My kids.  And what we are doing as parents now that will affect how they approach their future.  What kind of opportunities will they have?  Although so much emphasis is on education and it's reform in schools right now, gone are the days when getting a degree meant an almost guaranteed job position, so sometimes I ask what else can we provide besides a strong curriculum.

I heard a comment made by Robert Herjavec (of Dragon's Den/Shark Tank fame) to a nineteen year old student who was seeking business advice, that really struck me.  She was trying to start a cupcake business and he said she was on the right track, because nowadays kids can no longer expect to be hired for a job once they graduate, and the people who will succeed are the ones that create their OWN job, instead of waiting for one.

When he said this, it reminded me of my family, and generations before them.  It also made me think of my new neighbours...immigrants who have come to a new country filled with promise, and had to start from scratch in an unknown land.  Like my parents, foreign students not only struggle to put food on their family's table, but are often also looking for opportunities for free English classes or extra work to pay for school. They didn't have the opportunities like "Generation F" , drinking fancy lattes on their way to their parent-paid ivy league classes.  These foreign students have the discipline to work efficiently, balancing work, school and social activities, and the perseverance to move forward, despite the disadvantages, like not being fluent in English or having very little to eat.  Because sitting around drinking wine while complaining is NOT an option.  

This Friday is Chinese New Year...the Year of the Horse.  An animal that represents wisdom and hard work.  As my kids listen to stories of culture and tradition from my parents, hopefully they'll also learn some lessons on hardship.  I hope they understand the difference between being spoiled and being privileged.  Although it's a privilege to have many educational and life opportunities in front of them,  they'll also need the discipline and perseverance, like eating our veggies, to have the understanding to know what is good for us and to keep pushing forward, no matter how it tastes.

Happy Chinese New Year !!!

Garlic Bok Choy Fettuccine
(serves 4-6 people)
This isn't a traditional Chinese dish, however, my kids have recently started to really enjoy eating bok choy, a Chinese cabbage.  I've made this dish without the pasta (i.e. sauteed the vegetables with olive oil and garlic), which is similar to the way it is cooked in Chinese restaurants.  I added the pasta with other vegetables to make this a complete meal.
  • 3-6 tbsp. minced garlic (to taste)
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil 
  • ¼ cup of butter
  • 1 pound of bok choy
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 orange pepper
  • Parsley, basil, thyme to taste
  • 1 box of linguine or fettucine pasta (approx. 450g)
  • Cook the pasta as per directions on the box.
  • Heat the olive oil in a saucepan on medium-high heat.
  • Add the garlic and herbs and saute until garlic is softened.
  • Add butter and the bok choy and various peppers.   
  • Cook until bok choy is softened, then remove from heat.
  • Toss the pasta into the vegetable mixture.

Serve and Enjoy!

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