When asking my sister when we started our family tradition of The Birthday Chinese food she just responded with, ‘A long time ago.’ So this could remain quite vague.
It was my birthday yesterday which, naturally, included the traditions of birthday cake (white chocolate and orange made by Fiona’s fair hand), presents, and a full day of travelling back from Florence (ok, not such a typical tradition), and then, finally, the glossy gooey icing on that cake was our Birthday Chinese (in capital letters because it deserves them).
I’m sure many families have food traditions – a treasured and heavily stained cake recipe handed down through the generations or a food essential which always crops up at Christmas whether you like it or not. Ours is much more lazy which I’m slightly ashamed about as it merely entails us phoning up the local Chinese takeaway with our order and then collecting it. Our order has hardly changed over the years; chicken chowmein, beef in chilli sauce, half a duck with pancakes, egg fried rice and prawn crackers. Sometimes we add a curveball – battered prawns with lemon, yes please.
We just love the prospect of a night off and treating ourselves to something naughty and delicious. Birthdays are days of treats – the cake, the presents, a day with people you love – and you can give yourself a break from being hard on yourself. ‘I shouldn’t eat that as I need to shift these love handles’ or ‘I should work late because I want that promotion.’ January itself is such a bitter month; it’s cold, Christmas is 11 months away, and the emphasis is ‘new year new you!’ with constant pressure to improve yourself. Personally, I think a regular treat is helpful motivation. Treat yourself to a Birthday Chinese (and just pretend it’s your birthday).