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Lunar New Year 2021 Is a Reminder That Solidarity Goes Beyond Eating

Celebrations for the Year of the Ox took place in the context of anti-Asian racism driven by the coronavirus pandemic

People queue for take-away on the first day of the Lunar New Year in London’s Chinatown
TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images

Welcome back to Insta Stories, a column examining the London restaurant scene through the often-problematic medium of Instagram. This week’s filter is a real Tina Turner.

News of the week

Lunar New Year is always a boon for Instagram, as a staggeringly diverse array of beautifully presented feasts and seasonal delicacies flood the platform. But as reports of anti-Asian violence in the USA and U.K. rising during the last twelve months mount up, the celebration has gained an added resonance — and that’s without taking into account the effects of lockdown, with businesses closed and families and loved ones forcibly separated by COVID-19 restrictions. Any chance to turn over a new leaf is always worth celebrating, as is any opportunity to celebrate a community’s resilience in the face of appalling circumstances. But the first week of the Year of the Ox has underlined how much still needs to change for the better if this is truly to be a new beginning.

Monolith of the week

In hindsight, Pancake Day was always going to be the ultimate “u OK hun?” heat-check, as the Titanic of housebound, quarantine-fatigued users bore down on the iceberg of low-effort, highly customisable, very Insta-friendly content. No one, though, could have predicted quite how enthusiastically the nation would take to taking photos of hot batter — the net effect was not unlike the sensation of polishing off a triple-stack of the foodstuff in question, or, indeed, the after-effects of doing the same, as the grid ground to a constipated halt, its very mechanism gummed up with flour, eggs and milk. Perhaps in future the 17 February should be co-opted as Green Salad Day, to give everyone a respite, in all senses of the word.

Multitudes of the week

Much as the word “sourdough” has been reduced into describing a largely Western tradition of bread-making — whilst in its fullest sense it also includes products like Ethiopian injera and Indian dosa — so “pancake” has been shackled to a relatively limited set of associations: in the UK, either fluffy American hockey pucks or frilly French crepes. But truly global pancakedom encompasses much more than this, for example …

Cursed topping of the week

Blueberry jam, anyone?

Third fiddle of the week

Ugh it was also Valentine’s as well.

Hot trend of the week

Rhubarb, but make it Renzo Piano.

Not trend, please, of the week

Tequila-infused pizza? More like reposad-no.

Dish of the week

A new and instantly eye-catching entrant to London’s Sandwich Wars.

Shot of the week

A natural aphrodisiac.