Wish I could avoid SOME gatherings, forever
For reasons other than COVID: When social gatherings get a little too much for me.
We celebrated the Lunar New Year in the past week. Back home, it would have been a time when family and friends gather to feast, if not for restrictions on gatherings. Usually, we feast over hotpot or a fancy eight-course Chinese meal at a restaurant. We put on our best outfit—that may not necessarily be new because, well, sustainability—and we wish each other a prosperous year ahead.
However, the pandemic meant we did not celebrate the new year the usual way for the second year running. The last time we celebrated Lunar New Year was in January 2020, when Covid was still a side story in the news. Some of my relatives even cracked jokes about Covid over dinner. Fast forward two years later, all those jokes did NOT age well.
For the second year in a row, I thought I would feel sad about the situation, but I don’t. On the contrary, I feel an immense sense of relief at the thought of escaping awkward conversations with people whom I do not meet more than once a year. And that once a year is because of the Lunar New Year.
Yet, there is also a part of me that feels guilty. Perhaps, it is because we do not meet much that the Lunar New Year provides the perfect opportunity to catch up. After all, we get two public holidays every year to indulge in festivities in Singapore.
These days, I prefer spending the Lunar New Year with the people who matter. These include my immediate family, grandparents, and friends who know what I am up to most of the time. But of course, I am halfway around the world in Montreal.
I am not sure how familiar you guys are with hotpot, but it is a simple dinner affair with a portable stove and a pot of soup in the middle of the table. We usually buy a soup base, and we set the pot to simmer throughout dinner. We then lay the table with Chinese cabbage, fresh prawns, scallops, fish, tofu, and strips of meat (pork, chicken, beef, lamb, etc.). Almost nothing is cooked in advance, and the hard part is putting everything together. Finally, all that is left is gather and cook as we eat!
On the eve of the Lunar New Year, we went shopping for the standard hotpot ingredients. Without a portable induction cooker, we experimented with a basic rice cooker. Unfortunately, it took a while to bring the pot to boil, and we ended up cooking most of the food on the stove instead. Still, it was nice to have had some semblance of the festivities even in Montreal.
By a stroke of luck, restrictions on dining out lifted on the first day of the Lunar New Year! If you recall, Covid restrictions here kicked in two days after we arrived. All food establishments were takeaway only for the whole of January. I can’t believe I spent a quarter of my student exchange stuck at home, but it is what it is.
One of my friends found 3 Brasseurs, an American bar. Bars here are still closed, but this bar served main courses as well. I suppose it treads the fine line between bar and restaurant.
The outlet we went to also had a microbrewery within the restaurant! I am not a fan of beer, but my friends seemed to enjoy it. The menu is color-coded to help diners know what beer to pair with each dish.
The bar food here did not disappoint, and the side dishes we ordered were amazing! The nachos were crispy and not soggy despite all the cheese on top of it. Usually, nacho cheese is less viscous, but these nachos probably had some melting type of cheese in them as well. When we pulled the chips apart, we could see stringy bits that stretched between both ends. Yum!
I also ordered an apple mojito that could do with more mint leaves. It was much too sweet for my taste buds. If you like a sweet and fruity mojito, you may like it a lot more than I do.
For my main course, I ordered the 3 Brasseurs burger because burgers named after the restaurant cannot possibly go wrong. The burger had a beef patty, bacon, and it was coated with maple beer sauce. I thought the burger sounded unique and potentially amazing. Well, the burger turned out average, and there was nothing special about it that made me go wow.
I guess the sides were a hundred percent the stars of the restaurant! I would come back here again for some of that sweet and spicy chicken wings for sure.
Even away from home, I still found joy in celebrating the Lunar New Year our way. And I don’t know. I could live with smaller social gatherings compared to how it was before. They feel more intimate, and awkward conversations are greatly reduced. How about you?
Let’s talk soon!