Illustrations by Lila Volkas
I just discovered that I am a Snake. The Chinese Zodiac celebrates the Snake every 12 years and February 10 will kickoff a significant year for all us charmers. I am proud to share my Snake-hood with Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Pablo Picasso, Bob Dylan and Oprah Winfrey.
Having not paid too much attention to my slithery side, I recently turned for some expert advice to San Francisco professional astrologer and author Susan Levitt, who reassured me that the Snake in the Chinese Zodiac is not the evil temptress of the Garden of Eden, but a wise, intuitive and magical creature who appreciates art and beauty, and is the feminine side of the powerful Dragon.
As the Snake sheds its skin, this should be a year of transformation for everyone, she explained, where rewards will be found from looking inward into the world of spirit, instead of focusing on the outer world of material things.
Enlightening information, but as a food writer, my obvious next question to Levitt was how the year of the Snake and the Chinese Zodiac relate to what I eat. In the spirit of fun, Levitt offered me the following descriptions of the 12 animals in the Chinese Zodiac and their relationship to food.
People born in the Year of the Snake, she said, focus on quality over quantity, and follow the maxim, “less is more.” They are drawn to organic and other fine ingredients, and would rather have one piece of the best dark chocolate than a whole box of cheap chocolate. That characterization totally fits for me and explains the reason I continually have to hide the chocolate in my house from my “Monkey” daughter – read on to find out why.
Restless Monkeys tend to eat erratically and like a lot of candy. So they need to slow down and work against their crazy, candy-eating Monkey tendencies and learn to shop and plan meals.
Conversely, the hardworking Ox is a solid and steady beast. People born in the Year of the Ox appreciate three square meals a day, dinner on the table at 7pm and a nice, dependable bowl of oatmeal for breakfast.
The strong Horse is an athlete and is drawn to trail mix and power bars. People born in the Year of the Horse should make sure to have plenty of fruit and other healthy snacks to keep their energy up.
THE RAT AND THE DRAGON
Some animals in the Chinese Zodiac, Levitt tells me, have similar dining preferences and would enjoy sharing a meal. For example, the Rat is a connoisseur who likes to be the first to try new restaurants. The Dragon loves living large and entertaining at big banquets. This pair of gourmands would have a blast going out to fancy restaurants and impressing others by ordering only the best.
THE TIGER AND THE DOG
On the whole, the Tiger and the Dog love meat (but of course, Levitt allowed that that there could be a Dog who is a vegetarian as well). The independent Tiger tends to grab food on the go. Perhaps the reliable Dog can influence the Tiger to slow down enough so that they could share a thick, juicy steak together.
THE SHEEP AND THE RABBIT
Both the Sheep and the Rabbit appreciate the artistic. The social Sheep enjoys selecting fresh fruits and greens from the farmers market. The Rabbit pays attention to the beauty of how food is plated. They could share a salad of fancy greens, especially foraged ones, decorated with edible flowers.
The Rooster is a fussy eater. Levitt advises Roosters that it's a good time to try out some new tastes. Smart Rooster learns quickly from cookbooks and then can improvise.
And in keeping with its character, Pig loves to feast, especially on comfort foods like ice cream. Those born under the porcine sign tend to overeat, but make good chefs. "They also enjoy their booze,” Levitt tells me. Not surprising to find that Ernest Hemingway, Alfred Hitchcock and Arnold Schwarzenegger, who all seem to savor the pleasures of the table, are all Pigs.
San Francisco's Chinese New Year Parade, will take place on Saturday, February 23, 2013, at 5:15 p.m. and includes colorful traditional Chinese costumes and floats, fireworks and firecrackers.
For astrology readings and more in-depth information:
Special thanks to Lila Volkas, for creating the illustrations above. Lila is an artist and photographer. We previously collaborated on Lucky Foods for 2013, a collection of Food Idioms in 17 languages and a story about Parisian Tea salons.