Getting Roasted in Grandma’s Kitchen
Every Chinese New Year, my extended family reunites for an evening of laughter, gossip, steaming food and studious avoidance of our matriarch’s laser-like interrogations.
Illustration by Max Schieble
On the eve of the Chinese New Year, we arrive promptly at my grandparents’ shophouse, a Southeast Asian-style townhouse that combines a ground-level shop and an upper-level residence, for our annual feast. In Chinese diaspora communities all around the world, the New Year is marked by rowdy firecracker parties, a dinner of seasonal delicacies and a grand family homecoming. In the Ng household here in Singapore, it’s the time of the year when the entire clan congregates around a too-small table for a hotpot dinner and attempts small talk. It’s an occasion I love and dread at the same time.
As soon as we get to Grandma’s, the staring game begins: Everyone’s giving the next person the awkward eye and silently conjuring up their fail-safe lists of casual topics.
Except for Grandma. The matriarch of the family since my grandfather passed on, she’s ready with her arsenal of accusatory remarks and inciting queries. Every reunion dinner is like no other, because she …