Food Rites in Lean Times

In rural and urban areas, families, small eateries and large restaurants are all busy preparing for their major dining season, finding ways to celebrate the start of the new year and Spring Festival despite the tough economic times.

The reunion dinner held on the eve of the Lunar Chinese New Year, which falls on January 25 this year, is a tradition dating back more than 2,000 years and is traditionally the most extravagant meal of the year.

Before the early 1990s when food rationing was discontinued, most Chinese would spend the reunion dinner at home, with the family spending many days shopping for raw ingredients and the best cooks remaining in the kitchen for hours on end to prepare a huge range of local and regional dishes.

But as the country’s economy boomed, so to did food production and the growing number of urban Chinese began to eat more and more meals in restaurants. As a result, the catering industry enjoyed an average annual growth rate of 22.6 percent between 1991 and 2005 and many delicacies that were once only available only in markets during festivities are now found on supermarket shelves year round.

However, the wage cuts and job losses of the economic crisis are seeing many families opt not to celebrate in a restaurant this year and to prepare their special meal at home, with some taking cooking lessons to relearn the art of their region’s specialties.

Source: China Daily

Bess Mucke
[email protected]

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