Made in Macao | The importance of stocking up on food

Jenny Lao-Phillips

Macao was hard hit by typhoon Hato last week, and every social media has been flooded with discussions, comments, and reflections on this typhoon. Among these, I have noticed one thing arising from this disaster, which is a small but important issue: People in Macao are dangerously lacking in emergency food supplies.

On the day of the typhoon, most people were browsing the Internet for updates, and I was surprised to read on some discussion groups that quite a number of people shared that they were starving at home. Then, on the weekend, after the typhoon, families were claiming they had been surviving on a few packs of instant noodles for the last three days. Some even admitted that, if not for the volunteers who delivered food and water to them, they might have had nothing at all at home to eat or drink.

That made me wonder, why are we so unprepared? Not that I’m suggesting we should live like the apocalypse is coming, and keep shelves and shelves of food at home, but one would have thought having at least a few days’ worth of food and beverage in cupboards is normal. This is not only a practice for unforeseeable disaster, but just for days when we feel too lazy to even go out for food. Apparently, this doesn’t seem to be a practice for many, especially young families, in Macao. So, why don’t we stock up for rainy days?

One of the most common answer I received was that “we do not cook at home”. Macaoians have often made fun of the term “Mou Fan Ga Teng” ‮<‬ز‮=‬d‮.‬a‮.‬x (model family), which usually creates an image of a happy family with two kids, always having meals at home together in a loving environment. The amusing part is that this term sounds the same as ‮٥‬L‮٦:.‬a‮.‬x (no rice family), which quite obviously refers to modern families that do not cook at home. The number of the latter Mou Fan Ga Teng has been increasing as there are more families with both parents working, and there are more and more cafés and restaurants, making the idea of stocking up food at home less necessary.

However, there are a number of families that cook at home every day. This positive version of Mou Fan Ga Teng, usually has a housewife or a maid who goes to the market every morning to buy fresh ingredients to cook healthy meals for the family. Usually considering canned or preserved food unhealthy, the only food these families usually have in store is rice which they buy in bulk. Unfortunately, without electricity, they cannot cook rice.

There is a third group, mostly of young couples or young people who live alone, who do not seem to have the habit of stocking up food. Aside from the fact that it is easy to get food or groceries any time in Macao, the main reason they do not store food at home is because of a lack of space. The majority of apartments in Macao have a very small kitchen, and so the size of refrigerators is shockingly small for people who are accustomed to living in the West. Therefore, the idea of buying more groceries than needed for each day may not have occurred to many who do not have the space needed for storage.

So, after the near apocalyptic adventure, I guess whether we cook at home or not, or buy only fresh food from the market, or have limited space, there is a need to start the practice of stockpiling for an emergency. 

Categories Opinion