Monday, June 20, 2016

Parenthood: Week 157 - Pig Ears

There are so many things that make me proud of Ollie, and yesterday on father’s day, this pride came from Chinese food.

As we entered the Chinese restaurant, my mom did her thing. Everyone who came to the table instinctually knew to speak Mandarin Chinese to her and my dad and I smiled as this ritual, I knew so well began.

With only a cursory glance at the menu, my mom dove into conversation with the waiter, stopping every so often to ask us at the table what we would prefer. In her conversation in Mandarin, my mom asked what we really good at the restaurant, made specific requests and got dishes modified to be prepared more authentically.

I love watching this happen. In almost every other place that we go to, the fact that my parents are not native English speakers is a detriment. In a Chinese restaurant, it’s a gateway into a world of flavors and culinary art that is not presented on the menu. Hearing the exchange between my mom and the waiters gives me a sense of pride in my family and my heritage.

As Ollie struggled to figure out what to do with his chopsticks, our first two dishes came out: Pork Ear with Sesame Oil and Slice Beef Szechuan Style (both of these dishes are served cold). We passed the plates around and Ollie reached towards the plate of sliced pork ears covered in oil and Szechuan chilies indicating that he wanted to try some. “Ollie this is pig ear and it’s kind of spicy, are you sure you want this?” He nodded yes and he quickly picked up a piece of pig ear and put it in his mouth.

At that moment one of the waitresses had come to fill our water glasses and she looked at Ollie along with the rest of us waiting for his reaction. My family would have been fine if he spit it out and didn’t eat it. I’ve tried a lot of food that I didn’t end up swallowing in Chinese restaurants and my parents never got upset with me when this happened.

Watching Ollie intently, he chewed and swallowed without giving any facial reactions and then picked up another piece of pig ear, stuck it in his mouth and smiled.

In that moment, Ollie validated his heritage, connected with his ancestors and gave me an overwhelming feeling of pride. I sat back, smiled and ate the dish with him and felt that special warmth that only comes from the sharing of great food with people that you love.

That moment made my father’s day. All of struggles and tribulations of fatherhood were all worth it for that moment of connection.

No comments:

Post a Comment