032 Chinese New Year Tales From SG: Food! Food And Food! Versus Health Efforts

How not to put on weight during festive celebrations? We eat more and exercise less, especially so, during Chinese New Year’s celebrations.

  • All We Do Is Talk, Eat And Drink

The only body part that gets real busy during this period is the mouth. All that everyone does is talk, eat and drink. Period.

Like many Chinese families in Singapore, we had lots of seafood such as abalone, cuttlefish, prawns, scallops and a variety of meat such as chicken and pork, and even pork liver that went into a steamboat at reunion dinner, which marked the start of a 3- day food indulgence.

I’ve heard that CNY celebrations last for as long as 15 days in mainland China, while the Taiwanese across the island enjoy a break from school and work until the 5th day, though the celebrations very much continue till the Spring Lantern Festival (元宵节), which falls on the 15th. Thankfully, we adopt an abridged version in Singapore. Just 3 days.

I took no picture of the reunion dinner this year because it was no different from any other years. The above picture is taken from the internet, but it looks almost identical to what I had at home. Here is a picture of my children and their cousins having reunion dinner last year.

That was not all. Below is a glimpse of some dishes that my culinary-gifted sister Marilyn had cooked for family, relatives and friends when they visited my parents’ place this year.

(From top-left clockwise: Stir-fried giant tiger prawns, fried yam rolls, stir-fried vegetables, mixed mushrooms with fried chicken, and oysters-omelette.)

And let’s not forget to mention all the CNY goodies and snacks that were served round the clock.

The above picture shows some of my all-time favourite CNY goodies: pineapple tarts, mini prawn and pork floss rolls, sweetened BBQ pork aka Bak Kwa and egg rolls aka love letters.

As a person who adheres to time-tested traditions (laughs), I cast my cholesterol concerns temporarily aside for three days and succumbed to the lure of CNY delicacies. Constantly, I reminded myself to eat in moderation. The tricky part was I wasn’t sure how much was too much when it came to my irresistible favourites like Bak Kwa and pineapple tarts.

  • Guilt-lessening Efforts

To lessen my sense of guilt, I immediately switched to drinking a self-concocted Apple cider vinegar green tea throughout the days after I failed to resist a can of Kickapoo, a sugary lime-flavoured carbonated drink that brought nostalgia of childhood memories.

I knew that I had to find time to exercise. Despite the disrupted morning routine, I stole time to visit the gym twice, but did lesser than usual because of time constraint. I was even caught in video doing exercise at my mum’s place.

In the background of the video, you’d probably hear the chatter of children. It was the voice of my children and their cousins. Guess what they were doing on the first day of Chinese New Year’s celebrations?

  • Learning Discipline From Children

They actually did some serious school homework together! This is how some school-going children celebrate Chinese New Year the Singapore way. As a disclaimer, I had no part in orchestrating this scene at all.

It just happened that the kids were given too much homework by their school teachers. Conan’s eldest cousin, Sherman decided that he had to do homework. Shernice, his diligent younger sister and Conan, my self-professed less-hardworking younger son followed suit. There was no study gloom as they listened to pop-music and enjoyed CNY snacks while solving Maths problems on practice papers.

On normal days, I’d have told Conan off for putting in half-hearted efforts. But I decided to cut him some slack that day. He was at least enthusiastic and focused to keep up with his diligent cousins for an hour or so, before falling prey to playing games on his mobile phone later.

I am no better in the department of discipline. But I’ve learnt something from the children. Sometimes, when it becomes too hard to do it alone, do it together with others. Perhaps I should start asking friends out for exercise soon. Care to join me?

William W. K. Tan

19 February 2018

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