Why I Have a Pig Around My Neck

17
SPONSORED LINKS END OF SPONSORED LINKS
My little gold piggy, Ottawa, November 2016

My little gold piggy, Ottawa, November 2016

There is a golden pig dangling from a red string around my neck. Why? Well, because I am a pig. Feng is a tiger, so he wears a tiger jade pendant on a red string. Makes sense, right?

Just to be clear, I’m talking about our respective Chinese zodiac signs—I was born in 1983, the year of the pig, and I’m supposed to be “diligent, compassionate, and generous”—or at least, that’s what many fortune cookies told me over the years.

I’m not sure if these character traits are accurate considering that 1) I don’t believe in astrology 2) Fortune cookies are not a Chinese tradition.

Yet, I’m wearing this little gold piggy pendant Feng bought me in Shanghai’s first department store on Nanjing Road in 2014. I love it. It’s a small piece of Chinese culture I always have with me and a good luck charm.

Like many immigrant families all over the country, Feng and I blended our respective cultures at home—Chinese, French and Canadian in our case. I was introduced to China at age 12, when I started to learn Mandarin and I had been to China several times before becoming a “太太”(“taitai”, a married woman… or colloquially, a woman who is married to a wealthy man, loves to shop, and goes to spas), so adopting Feng’s Chinese side was relatively easy.

Do you want to see our Chinese side? Follow me!

Chinese calendars

I think my in-laws have a calendar in each room of their house, and so do many Chinese households. Early in our relationship, I asked Feng why. “They’re free,” he shrugged. Indeed they are, because in a community outreach effort, many big-name businesses hand out branded Chinese calendars around Chinese New Year or at the beginning of the regular Western year. I’ve seen shopper spending the exact amount required (like $88.88, because of course, “8” is an auspicious number) to get a free calendar at the Chinese supermarket. You can argue that it’s not exactly free then, but Chinese can’t pass on a free item and the perspective of free home decoration. Besides, these calendars are useful to remember Chinese holidays.

Chinese calendar in the kitchen

Chinese calendar in the kitchen

Dry noodles

Although the leading brands are usually Korean or Japanese (and never Maggi or other Western brands, you fool), dry noodles are to Chinese household what mac & cheese is to Canadians or coquillettes au beurre is to French—a cheap, quick and delicious meal that can be customized to your needs. I make a mean noodle bowl, trust me—my favourite ingredients are broccoli, bamboo shoots, eggs, carrots and bok choy.

A drawer of dry noodles at home

A drawer of dry noodles at home

Chopsticks

I love chopsticks. They are easy to wash, they force you to eat a bit slower and they are great cooking tools. I eat everything with chopsticks. My father-in-law even eats cake with chopsticks. I have no idea how Westerners, i.e. my own kind, cook without them. I use them to retrieve food from the oven, to scramble eggs, untangle noodles, stir rice… the possibilities are endless.

At home, Feng and I use chopsticks more often than knife and fork. Mark has still to master chopsticks, but he found another use for them…

Our cutlery tray

Our cutlery tray

Chinese spoons

Because sometimes, you have to slurp your soup like a proper Chinese. Slurp away, my friend and use the spoon to eat your wontons!

Also, generally speaking, we also tend to eat out of bowls or various sizes rather than putting food on plates.

Red and black Chinese spoon

Red and black Chinese spoon

Chinese sauces, condiments and spices

Sesame oil, rice wine, soy sauce, Korean kimchi, bājiǎo (star anise), ginger, etc. are some of the condiments we use daily. I can’t say we eat typical Chinese food—Feng would get take out if he feels like having American-Chinese food, like General Tso’s chicken—but we use many Chinese ingredients. We enjoy Chinese flavours without following the traditional recipe book, basically.

Rice vinegar, sesame oil, soy sauce

Rice vinegar, sesame oil, soy sauce

Rice

Don’t bother knocking on our door to borrow a cup of milk or a coffee filter—these are not common pantry items for us (but I can tell you where the nearest Tim Hortons is…). However, if you ever have a sudden craving for rice, come over. We have the usual 20 lbs bag of rice most Asian households store at the bottom of the cupboard, plus various kinds of rice like basmati, wild, short grain, etc. And there is a 50% chance a pot of rice is ready on the table as well.

The big bag of rice in the pantry

The big bag of rice in the pantry

Various kinds of rice

Various kinds of rice

Pot of rice on the table

Pot of rice on the table

Red thread and knot bracelets

A red string, a charm, some jade or an auspicious Chinese character. This is the simple traditional jewelry most Chinese wear. I bought these ones over the years in China.

A few Chinese bracelets I collected over the years

A few Chinese bracelets I collected over the years

Good-luck charms

The character Fú means “fortune” or “good luck”. The one on our fridge is upside-down because the pronunciation of the words for “upside-down” and “to arrive” (in both cases, “dào”) are homophonous. So the phrase an “upside-down Fú” sounds nearly identical to the phrase “Good luck arrives”. It’s a Chinese pun, basically.

The "fu" character on the fridge

The “fu” character on the fridge

 

Wind chime by the door

Wind chime by the door

 

Kawai stuff

Many of my friends find it surprising because I’m not very girlie, but I love cartoonish and cute gizmos. I buy them in China or on AliExpress. Because why shouldn’t a USB plug be a panda? Why shouldn’t an alarm clock be a goofy Doraemon? Why should I settle for boring, regular reusable bags?

Reusable shopping bag

Reusable shopping bag

Alarm clock and hook

Alarm clock and hook

USB wall charger

USB wall charger

How about you? Do you have little pieces of your culture at home?

Share.

About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.

17 Comments

  1. I approve of all that panda stuff!
    It’s so great to see how we adopt different cultures. I think I didn’t live abroad too long, for that. I’ve also already have a double spanish-french culture and my cooking really shows it! I couldn’t live without spanish rice or saffron, or even gaspacho “noodles”. I had, once, a shortage of olive oil and I got intensively depressed.

    Uh, looks like I’m a rabbit! And I apparently have bad luck (which I already knew). Gentle, quiet, alert but stubborn and full of melancholia. Hey, that’s ME!!!

    Which parts of your french heritage did Feng adopt?

    • I have this hilarious picture of Feng reading Libération 😆

      He definitely eats more dairy since we live together (cheese, yogurts, etc.) and he switched to REAL bread (i.e. not Wonderbread). He appreciates art better as well, I think, and despite what he claims, he understands French pretty well. He is also addicted to some classic French cookies (like my Saint Michel stuff), taboulé, saucisson and other good stuff I forget!

  2. Ah, this reminds me of our time in Japan. I would stack up on those instant noodles every weekend, and would snack on them during the week after school. Japan has plenty of flavors, ranging from those with soup, to the ones that are dry (a la yakisoba, where you drain the water after letting it sit for 5 minutes or so, and then you mix the seasoning). My parents were shocked at the amount of unhealthy stuff in them, but as a kid I just didn’t care.

    Also, thanks to you I understand the upside-down fu. A professor in graduate school had that on her door. She was Chinese, and told me it was a good luck charm, but I never realized it’s actually a wordplay.

      • Filipinos have borrowed plenty of good luck symbols from the Chinese, actually. There’s a big Chinese Filipino community, and so these are the folks who have immense rituals on food during New Year for example, always making sure that every food item is round, and so forth.

        The native Filipinos on the other hand are still into amulets, even though they are Catholic. I have heard plenty of stories about bullets or other amulets being swallowed for good luck charms, making the swallower “bullet proof”. Then this amulet will just reappear before the person dies, he would spit it out and the heir would swallow it next. It grosses me out thinking about it.

        • Right, I forgot the faith aspect of the Philippines. I did notice many cars in Filipino households (not assuming here, there is usually a flag on the car!) have amulets dangling from the front mirror.

  3. I love your pig, infinitely cute. Will find out what my year represents and get me something on a red string. Is there any significance to wearing a gold pig versus a jade one?

  4. I would love to have the Doraemon alarm clock, I just introduced it to my daughter and she loves to read Doraemon’s manga. But my husband didn’t know it at all, I was so surprised since in France Japanese mangas are so popular.

    My husband eats chili, lot’s of them, he got the habit from Malaysia. He even grows them in the garden.

  5. I have to admit, I didn’t expect you to be into kawaii either 😉
    I love the little pig, and the fact that it’s a gift makes it more special. I think we’ve talked about it before, I’m a “rat” and I have to admit I don’t want to wear a rat around my neck 😉 And contrary to what my horoscope says, I am terrible at saving money (sadly…)
    Love the mix of cultures though!
    I got my other half a whole bunch of very greasy very traditional Scottish foods for his birthday, so I hear you 😉

    • Is Scottish food greasy by default? Just wondering considering you used this adjective. I do remember hearing of deep fried pizza and deep-fried Snickers bars in Scotland, come to think of it…

      I’m lucky, the pig is a cute enough animal to wear. I like rats! The ones pictured in Chinese horoscopes are always on the cute side, more like Mickey Mouse 😉

      • True they are always made to look a little cute 🙂
        Not all food is greasy there, and I’ve never had deep fried pizza or Mars bar haha
        There is a lot of fresh seafood and there is a bit of a food revolution in the UK. But yes, food there was generally quite greasy / meaty.

        • I remember absolutely hating British food in the 1990s. Then, when I visited again around 2010 with Feng, I found the change amazing. Food was more diverse, more exotic, cheaper and much better!

    • Franchement, je ne sais pas trop! Le défi, probablement. Le monde anglophone (qui pour moi à l’époque se résumait à l’Angleterre) ne m’attirait pas trop, je me disais que j’apprendrai l’anglais plus tard. C’était une classe pilote, on était six, dont quatre d’origine chinoise. Je crois que le côté “projet spécial” me tentait, faire quelque chose de différent.

Leave A Reply