“Family cooking is facing a challenge… recipes might disappear. Its not only that we won’t make the food but we will miss some intergenerational communication and family histories,” says Sidney Cheung, Chairman
and Professor of Anthropology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, discussing the future of food. With more Hongkongers’ working longer hours, fewer people are learning family recipes. Also, the sheer number and ease of access to eateries further dissuades many diners from taking the time to cook at home.
In recent years, a number of changes have come to fill this home cooking void. For some, it has triggered the need to document heirloom recipes, while learning more about their origins. One such example is Grandma Grandpa Cook, a book of recipes and stories collected from more than 40 senior citizens who made Hong Kong their home before World War Two. From nourishing soups to laborious desserts, each dish tells a story, be it of poverty, war, immigration, ethnicity or happy accidents.
The need for “tradition” as a narrative behind food is also evident in the recent proliferation of food brands and restaurants across Asia claiming to serve flavours of the past. In Taiwan, the buzzword guzaowei (ancient flavours) is found from retro cafés to pineapple cake souvenirs. In Hong Kong, food magazine editors have been swooning over everything waai gau (nostalgic).