Asians have a very complex relationship with food and if you have had any significant interaction with an Asian you would know this, just as we newcomers have to accept that few Aussies can have a good time without the aid of alcohol.
A case in point: I told friends at work that I was happy to cook my specialty- chicken curry – but that would mean having everyone over to my home on a Saturday. To my amazement, instead of being thrilled at the prospect of a homemade curry, a colleague who wanted the dinner to take place on a week day as she had family duties in the weekend suggested I use the “Patak’s” prepared bottle of chicken curry in the interest of saving cooking time. Needless to say I was horrified and frankly a little insulted. Asians take pride in their cooking and it is very much part of our cultural identity – our way of life and a universal value across many ethnicities that we bond over food, not sports, not beer.
I feel honoured when invited for dinner by friends to their home to share a meal, as not only is it an invitation to share a private intimate space but it is part of cross cultural learning.
I struggle with the “laid-back” approach of Aussies about food especially now given the mounting research that eating good food promotes overall physical as well as mental health. Asians have always understood this. For example the Confucius philosophical ideas of their culture has a deep influence over Chinese food culture. In fact Confucianism philosophy strongly believes in the idea that food and friends are an inseparable part of life.
Like the Confucius culture, herbs and spices play a key role a key role for Hindus who believe that there is a connection between foods, moods, fitness and longevity.
So you can begin to appreciate why Asians spend an inordinate time talking about food, preparing meals and prioritising family time around dinner.
As for me, I am happiest sitting around a table with good home cooked food and friends who appreciate the space and time to eat well and engage one another and I do my darnest to continue this tradition.