We never went to restaurants. We didn’t have enough money and anyway, if there was any extra money, it was better to save it for travel adventures or to buy worthwhile things we needed for the house.
A few times when we did the bus trip to do the weekly grocery shopping, my mother would buy us a finger bun as a treat. That made helping to carry the bags of groceries from the bus stop to our house a little easier. And in summer, my mother sometimes bought us an icecream when we went to the beach. Also there were times when we bought fish and chips, which was a rare treat.
But that was as far as “eating out” went in our family.
And so, when we drove into Dubbo on our way home from one particular camping holiday out in the far west, I could not believe my eyes when my father pulled the car into a parking spot outside the local Chinese restaurant with exotic signage on the glass shop front and lace curtains. My parents told us they were going to order take-away Chinese food for our dinner. I didn’t think they even knew how to order food in a restaurant.
But it turned out that they did know, because out they came 15 minutes later with take-away Chinese food for us all. We took it to the park in the centre of Dubbo and ate our exotic meal by the banks of the Macquarie River. We feasted on such delights as spring rolls, fried rice, sweet and sour pork, and some sort of dish with very fine noodles. Dubbo became the international culinary pinnacle of my universe.
Chinese restaurants in country towns still always remind me of my ‘introduction to world cuisine’ and even though it is a long time since I have been there, I have a soft spot for Dubbo. But I still don’t know what prompted my parents to buy Chinese take-away that day.