by Toffler



Weddings & Leftover Food 婚礼 & 剩菜

November 7, 2006, by TofflerN, category Knowledge and Experiences, Uncategorized

By ‘attending’ 6 weddings over three days I was offered an additional insight into Chinese culture by watching this key cultural component of any society.  Chinese weddings in recent years have become more Western.  Traditionally the bride would wear red to symbolize prosperity and happiness; however with the interest in Western culture, modern brides in China wear full length flowing white wedding gowns on par with any in the US.  They wear the white dress for the ceremony, which is usually non-religious but more about knitting the family/the couple together in the name of love.  Unlike traditional Western weddings, this is not the first time the groom has seen the bride in her white gown.  In China, the couple usually goes to a photo studio weeks before the wedding and gets hundred of photos taken.  These photos are then displayed at the wedding.
Following the ceremony is a large Chinese style dinner with more aspects of Western culture blended in.  According to recent trends, the banquet room is all dressed in white, with lots of fresh flowers.  Wedding photos of the couple may also be displayed or the couple may bring a slide show of their youth as well as wedding pictures.  After all the guests are seated (usually more than attended the ceremony), the bride and groom process in.  Sometimes the bride may be given away by her father to the groom, as is traditional in Western weddings.  Then the couple walks down the middle of the room for everyone to see and bear witness to their marriage.  Throughout the dinner the MC talks most of the time and there are many speeches and toasts.  The couple may go to each table and ‘gan bei’ with every table, meaning drink an entire glass.  Since the couple doesn’t want to get so drunk, they only drink alcohol with their favorite tables, with every other table they drink soda while making the guests drink an entire glass of beer or wine.  In between the toasts, thanks, speeches, and slide show the bride will also change dresses multiple times, maybe wearing as many as 3-4 gowns per night and each return of the bride must include a procession of her and the groom down the length of the room.  Finally, toward the end of the evening the couple will cut the cake and one large piece will be put on each table.

Since the wedding is in China and food is one of greatest points of pride among Chinese, at weddings they of course eat Chinese food, served family style.  This means that all the dishes are placed in the middle of the table on a lazy-susan and people simply use their chopsticks to dig-in and grab what they want.  It is very important at these events for there to be left over food.   Despite the fact our banquet set-menu has about 10-12 dishes included (not counting cake or drinks), one of the questions most often asked is, ‘Is that enough food? … Maybe we can add another dish.’  This demand to have leftover, even wasted food seems a bit strange in a country where so many people don’t get enough to eat.  Contrast this to a country like the US where people certainly get enough to eat (judging by the obesity epidemic) but yet still insist on finishing everything on their plates to ensure no food is wasted.  Coming from the US culture where we don’t waste food, it’s a tragedy to watch as pounds and pounds of leftover finely prepared food are simply dumped into the trash because Chinese wedding parties insist on having ‘enough,’ meaning lots of extra left on the table, at each wedding.  Their perception is that by having enough food for the guests they are proving their social status, including the fact they have enough money to provide a wedding feast to their guests.

Most of the time this food is just left on the table to be thrown away, but some wedding guests do wish to take it home.  This seems to me a bit of a dirty practice seeming that everyone has already passed their germs onto the leftover food by using their one pair of chopsticks to pickup food and put it into their mouths.  In one example of people wanting to take home the food, 2 people were arguing very strongly, nearly to the point to of shoving each other, about who was going to take home the extra food.  This seemed a bit ridiculous and even disrespectful to the couple, in my opinion.

Certainly, you don’t want to run out of food at a wedding, but the insistence on having so much leftover, wasted food is really sad.  It seems to me there really should be a better alternative.

So, what do you think ?