In the week that we celebrate Saint Valentine, let me tell you how different love looks in Tibet.
We touched on this a couple of weeks ago when our nephews in Tibet – two of them – got married to a local girl. This practice, known as fraternal polyandry, was officially outlawed by the Chinese some 40 years ago, but remains widespread in rural areas.
But what of romantic love, in the mould of Saint Valentine? All I can say is it’s just as well I lived in China all those years before I met Yeshi, as it helped me to understand that in Asia a different set of rules apply.
Things have changed now, but when I first visited the People’s Republic back in the early 1990s, public displays of affection were a taboo. Women held hands with other women, and men with men (this was especially common among work colleagues in places such as train stations as I recall), but snuggling up and other outward signs of romance were nowhere to be seen.
Kissing is where things get most complicated. In 1897, the anthropologist Paul d’Enjoy observed that in many Asian cultures mouth-to-mouth kissing was considered an “abomination”, and in fact “a form of cannibalism”. In Japanese there wasn’t even a proper word for kissing until recently. It’s known as kisu now, a loan word from English that spellcheck tries to correct for me even as I type.
In the case of Tibetans, I wonder if, beyond the relative lack of a traditional kissing culture in Asia in general, the fact that Tibetan families commonly share a living and sleeping space also contributes. Sex is going to happen, but the deed is usually done quickly in this scenario, with as few outward signs as possible.
As for kisses of a casual nature, Yeshi finds this western practice very difficult to get used to, and he hasn’t yet mastered the correct angle. In his early days in the UK he planted one smack bang on my sister’s lips as we said goodbye, and later, when my friend got married, he congratulated her rather too tenderly in front of her new groom.
If love anthropology is your thing this Valentine’s Day, Yeshi and I will both be out front at the restaurant tomorrow evening so come and see us for momos and chocolate tsampa truffles and all the chat. You can dine with us or take away – we couldn’t be more excited if you choose us for your hot date.
We’re open all the usual hours, including Sunday this week, as follows:
Wednesday – Friday: 5-9.30pm (dinner only)
Saturday and Sunday: 12-3 (lunch) / 5-9.30pm (dinner)
Our menu is on the website now – check it! Come by for hot food and food for the freezer. Or maybe chilli oil is your language of love, or a copy of our cookbook. Signed copies are available in store or down the road at Caper during our closed hours.
Finally, are you signed up to our email newsletter? As subscribers you benefit from exclusive weekly discounts and deals. This week we’re offering BUY ONE GET ONE FREE on loads of our freezer meals – do not miss it! Look for the sign-up link on our website – it’s at the bottom each page.
Leaving you with this snapshot of loved-up life in India a million moons ago.
Happy Valentine’s one and all 💕
Julie and Yeshi
Opening hours this week:
Weds – Fri: 5-9.30pm
Sat / Sun: 12-3pm 🥢 5-9.30pm
☏ 01865 499318