I’ll admit that this story is less about food and more about my relationship with my father, so if all you want to read about is my relationship with food, this may be the week to bow out. Come back next week, though I promise you that next week is one of the times you’ll want to close your office door and bring out the tissue box, or perhaps save it for when you’re home.
I’m sure this surprises exactly no one, but I was Daddy’s Little Girl. I’ve mentioned before my propensity to try and try to like everything he did, and my intense desire to please him in any way possible. I was a lot like my father, which is probably why we butted heads so often, but he doted on me as much as I doted on him.
We adored each other.
Unfortunately, one of the ways I was not like him (though I’d like to say that I’ve grown a bit in this manner since I was a child) was the way my mind worked. As a child, I was very much in-the-box in terms of how I thought. A lot of things simply never occurred to me, so I never tried them. Now that I’m older and am aware of this issue, I do try hard to think outside the box, but it doesn’t come quite so naturally to me.
Growing up, this led to a lot of sneaky “attacks” by my siblings. I was fairly gullible and it wasn’t difficult to trick me into doing things or saying things or just believing things that were obviously false.
(Lucky for me, I was naturally adept at standardized tests, and did pretty well in school – and looked just like my mother – else my parents might have tried to return me to the hospital as “This isn’t our daughter” may have crossed their mind. Phew.)
Somewhere from the age of about 3 or 4 to the age of 7 or 8, my family frequented this Chinese restaurant on Queens Boulevard. I don’t remember the name, I don’t really remember what we ate, but I know we went there fairly frequently. We stopped going when the chef left; this was before the age of the internet (it was still called the information superhighway, and though we were on it via Prodigy – holla, xdww09e! – websites were barebones, people still used the <flash> tag, and there were no chef databases or Eater.com to tell you where a chef went if he left a place; plus, this was a Chinese restaurant, which I think is still hard to this day to entirely track the chefs). But yes, my parents were known to visit restaurants and “follow” chefs to their new restaurants… they were the original foodies, fo’sho.
In any case, I do remember that this restaurant we frequented was somewhere along Queens Boulevard, in the Forest Hills/Kew Gardens area. The tables had a removable panel in the center, which lifted to reveal a burner. This is burned in my memory, and leads me to think that one of the dishes available there was hot pot or shabu shabu, which we may have had a number of times there – but not every time.
These are the things I remember.
There was a booth that, as a family of five, we often commanded. It surrounded a round table. Vinyl seats encouraged one to bounce as one scooted into the booth to fit around the table.
One visit, towards the end of our visiting this restaurant, my father went to sit in the booth. I tried to follow him, but I was too slow and one of my siblings had already slid into the booth to sit next to him. My mother was on his other side.
I’m sure this will not surprise anyone: as Daddy’s Little Girl, I was spoiled rotten. My father doted on me. I was also the youngest child and quite accustomed to receiving my way. I screwed up my face and pouted, “I want to sit next to Daddy.”
I was young enough to not really have a complete grasp on what was acceptable behavior and what wasn’t – at least, from the perspective of 32 year old me, I cannot fathom why I would think what I proceeded to do was okay – but looking back, I understand this from two sides. On the one hand, why wouldn’t I be allowed to sit next to my father, which is where I sat every single time we went out to eat? He or my mother frequently would put food on my plate to eat, since I was the youngest. I was too slow and too busy daydreaming (making up stories in my head; I was often told I had an overactive imagination) to think about putting food on my own plate, and would go hungry if left to my own devices. But on the other hand, why would whichever sibling it was deign to move? Perhaps he or she always wanted to sit next to our father, but I was always given preference. There wasn’t any clear incentive for the sibling to move.
“No, just sit there,” someone – no idea who it was, a parent or a sibling – told me, pointing to the last remaining seat, directly across from my father.
“NO! I want to sit NEXT TO DADDY.” I said loudly and screwed up my face in what was my most spoiled pout. (If you’ve seen me do this, I don’t envy you.)
This went on for what couldn’t have been more than 2 minutes – at least, I hope so, for the sake of whatever other diners were in the restaurant.
Finally, my father cut in – he was actually quite stern when he wanted to be – and said, “Just sit down, if you sit across from me, I can see your pretty face better than if you sit next to me.”
Appeased momentarily, I took my seat and began doing whatever it is kids do while their parents look at menus to decide the meal.
I’d like to believe it was only 30 seconds later before I realized I’d been tricked. It might have been longer. I told you, I have trouble thinking outside the box, and at such a young age, I don’t believe I was aware that people tricked other people or even knew what lying or manipulating was. I was really innocent!… and spoiled.
I opened my mouth and began to wail loudly, while tears streamed down my face. “You tricked meeeeeeee!” I wailed, “I wanna sit next to Daddddddddyyyyyyy!” I managed through the sobs.
This should tell you as much about my family as it does about me: they burst out laughing at me.
For the record, that day, I did not sit next to my father, and stayed in my seat across from him. That may have been the last time we went to that restaurant. Maybe my wailing shamed my family from ever going back. Or maybe the food went drastically downhill. I don’t know.
I just remember sitting across from my father and sulking the entire meal.
Daddy’s Little Girl, indeed.