Last week I wrote about my love of cafes. I hope that in doing so I did not accidentally imply that I only rate going out for day time meals. This is not so. I also love going out for tea. (I grew up saying ‘tea’ and ‘pudding’ and now say ‘dinner’ and ‘dessert’ but I am trying to reclaim my language heritage. Pudding of course does not have to be actual pudding and in my house after tea we usually grappled with the dismal news that there was ‘only fruit for pudding’. Sometimes we would have a tin of fruit for pudding, which was harder to prepare than it sounds as my mother often stocked up on unlabelled cans from the SPC factory and then got the tinned tomatoes and peaches mixed up in the cupboard.)
I grew up in country Victoria and so my first memories of going out for tea are naturally of going to the local Chinese restaurant. This was a big and rare treat. I loved everything about it. I loved the opulent decorations, chicken and corn soup, the ingenuity of the Lazy Susan and the possibility that at the end of the meal someone might order pudding and have that ultimate contradiction and seeming impossibility: fried ice-cream.
(Incidentally Susan has been very unfairly described as ‘lazy’ when she was obviously flipping brilliant. I suspect with that kind of efficient thinking she may have had something to do with the time saving properties of margarine.)
We loved going to the Wangaratta Chinese restaurant so much so that my older sister chose it as the destination for her eighth birthday party. This might seem like an odd choice for an eight year old but it’s not like McDonalds was an option as my parents refused to take us and Mum met all pleas with the comment ‘You can go to McDonalds on your 21st birthday’, which I now realise was a joke to herself but at the time seemed like she was simply being ridiculous.
But although McDonalds was alluring I was also very excited that the whole family, along with three of my sister’s best friends, would be going to the Chinese restaurant for tea. My sister was also very excited. She was extremely excited. She was so excited that she got a stomach ache. At first there was concern that she was actually ill but then it became obvious that she was just too nervous and sick with anticipation. And instead of just leaving her at home and forging ahead with the outing my parents cancelled. We had a cake at home, so at least there was pudding.