When I lived by the bay in Auckland a decade ago, I loved eating fish and chips. At high noon on slow, sedated Sundays, my grandma and I would amble down to the little corner shop. We were unrushed, easy-going and moving at our own pace. Along the way, we’d talk about everything and nothing at all.
The shop was an unassuming place with unremarkable magazines and dreary decor, the kind that a food critic would skip, and an instagrammer would rain check today.
We’d order a family pack: potato scallops for Grandpa, battered ‘catch of the day’ for my parents, and some banana fritters for my sister if my six-year-old self was feeling particularly benevolent. While we waited, I would count the little anchors on the wallpaper and afterwards, with paper pack in hand, we’d stroll home and devour the entire feast.
On Chinese New Year’s Eve, I would cover my nose as my mother stood in the kitchen, steaming a fresh fish whole. All the while, I yearned for the crisp batter of fish and chicken salt. My mother’s dressing of ginger, scallions, soy sauce and sesame oil failed to placate my tastebuds. Complain many a time, I did. On TV, Masterchef taught me that if bones were left in fish, the chef had been negligent.
During those New Year’s dinners, I would poke at my rice, forlorn, and daydream of being someone else.
The slow days died when Australia became my home. Sundays flew by as my father and I scouted Sydney for a cheap place to rent. We’d spend loose change on Smith’s chip packets. My father would begrudgingly eat the chips and I’d save the free footy tazo for awkward discussions about the Swans and Sea Eagles at recess.
On school mornings, he would pour a thin layer of milk into an old takeaway container and dip Weet-Bix into it. Crusts of dehydrated fibre flakes would fly everywhere.
My father was born in a small village a three and a half hour’s drive from Shanghai. His childhood home was made of wood. My mother was born in China’s industrial capital of Changchun. Her family didn’t own a fridge until she was in her teens. Both met in China’s South before they uprooted their romantic world for my own.
It is true that I am guilty. I am also indebted and deeply grateful to them.
With USU and federal elections looming, the world of politics—often so ugly, unreliable and unforgiving—could do better with people like my parents.
I dedicate this edition to those people.