During our visit to Diane’s hometown Canadian city this past holiday season, an ironically timed thing happened. Purely through coincidence, Diane has family in both Brooklyn and Queens that live very close to my semi-estranged parents. Living in the same small two bedroom apartment since 1952, my father always makes short sarcastic comments when I call about why we don’t visit more often. Unwilling to let us stay in the spare bedroom for no clear reason, we usually refuse citing the cost of lodging anywhere in New York City. Visiting my hometown only about twice per decade, I was looking for an excuse to pop in one last time before fleeing to the other side of the world.
The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge highlights my childhood Brooklyn neighborhood
Before you call me heartless, understand that parents of Jewish backgrounds pull a guilt thing that’s inescapable even if religion plays no role in their lives (like mine). Having used all frequent flier miles and free perks on our Annual Expat Destination Research Vacations, we got excited when we learned that Diane’s cousin in was getting married in Queens later this year. Under undue Chinese parental guilt (similar but slightly different from the aforementioned Jewish guilt), we quickly agreed to attend before thinking about the timing, financial implications or practicality. Given the timing of our MM2H filing and simultaneous listing of our house in March and April, we decided against the trip but naturally waited until we got home to tell the family.
A funny thing happened on the way to the Christmas dinner table at Diane’s relatives house. There was no dinner. Spending our last holiday season in the cold before we move to Malaysia in the spring, Diane and I heard the news through the family grapevine.
Although both her parents are relatively fit and healthy, they’ve apparently decided that 80 is the magic age where parents get to say “I’m too old to cook anymore”. Fortunately, there’s always been a solution and for a Chinese-Jewish couple, it’s almost sacrilegious NOT to engage in the traditional Christmas Feast at a Chinese restaurant. Invented in New York City, Christmas Day Chinese dinner represents the busiest day of the year for a Chinese restaurant, sans perhaps Chinese New Year. Welcoming both religious, non-religious and those Jews somewhere in-between, Chinese entrepreneurs figured out long ago that the Jewish community has a lot of money, celebrates their own holiday season on eight different days that never fall on December 25th and best of all, Jewish people love Chinese food.
Celebrating the spirit of the holidays, Diane and I are suffering through our last freezing cold Christmas while visiting her family in the arctic cold environment of Edmonton, Alberta. Delivering news of our upcoming move to Malaysiato her parents, it seemed only natural to experience ice and snow, break out heavy parkas and remind ourselves one more time why Canadians move to the tropics and not vice-versa. Separated from technology in a wireless house reminiscent of the old days (the 1990’s), I scheduled this post thinking everybody loves to eat around the holidays. Although Penang has Southeast Asia’s best cuisine, I started thinking about the things we will likely NOT find anywhere in Malaysia.
Woody Allen: New York’s most famous Neurotic Jew
Sadly, most everything on the list is also not available in Northern California, at least not in its palatable form. Realizing that native New Yorkers celebrate their own original version of food, I compiled a list of 12 lip smacking delicious foods found only at a (non-existent) Kosher/Italian New York style hawker stand. Unclear if that would fly with so much incredibly great other stuff and since the MM2H visa prohibits most forms of employment income, pictures and memories are no doubt the closest I’ll get until my next trip back to Brooklyn.