I was listening with all my might. Poised, brows lifted, leaning into my seat but somewhere between sitting down and scanning the yum cha trolleys, the point of the conversation had slipped me by. I tried to read the pauses, notice his inflections, hoped for a “and this is the worst bit” but it never came. I knew I would have to react soon, so I threw all I had into listening.
My friend was talking about his four-year-old son, one of those cute little people who is taken along to all day time social events as though all three of us are in our mid to late 30s, just that one us can’t drive and wears special pants to bed.
As he continued I tried really hard to find my lines in the script but I knew I landed a role I couldn’t play. I busied myself with table jobs; straightened the chop sticks, checked the vinegar and ordered a glass of Pizzini pinot grigio to have with my chilli won tons, the fullness and spice of the variety doing good things with the oily and not-as-hot-as-it-looks chilli sauce.
“ … and so the whole restaurant clapped when I showed them how he eats dumplings. He’s such a grown up with what he eats”. Ah, here it was, my moment to shine. My moment to applaud and deliver my line; “that’s so amazing, your child must have such an advanced palate, what a great reflection on you as a parent” but all I could think was “but one of the oldest cultures in civilization has been eating and feeding their children yum cha for centuries. What Wheat Bix are to Australian kids, a pork bun is to a Chinese one.”
Of course I didn’t say that but did wonder when this happened. This was a man who subscribes to Triple R, drinks long necks of Melbourne and smokes rollies.
I ordered the famous soup dumplings and another drink. This time a Jim Barry riesling – light, floral and ending with a mouthful of acid. It seemed appropriate.
As the citrus and lemon of the riesling flooded in and cooled the hot liquid of the soup dumplings, I wondered when it was that cuisine became the new frontier for children to excel at. I knew parenting was competitive but this seemed an intrusion on something precious. No longer am I to act impressed by Johnny’s kindergarten finger-painting, I’m expected to be in awe of Oscar, Jack, Bella and Ruby’s gastronomically advanced dining habits. How did this happen?
I was starting to feel intimidated by what was coming.
“Well”, I said, “you never know, with that kind of palate, he might be a wine writer.”
“Nah”, said my friend “no need for the kid to be a wanker.”