An Unexpected Note

I received this in my email last week. It’s part of an invitation to a blogger’s food tasting session, but its introduction was just too sweet to ignore, so I wrote back to ask permission to republish the first paragraph of the note as a keepsake with all the other letters for Xander published here.

Dear Xander,

I recently read your dad’s very amusing blog (www.wordsofwinston.sg) and I was very touched by his love for you and respect for your privacy. I’m sure your dad will find a way to balance the pros and cons of being a parent blogger. I just want to say, I enjoy reading about your experiences as a family and I hope somehow I’ll be able to continue reading those great posts filled with wonderful photos.

***

Warmest Regards,
Carrie Sim

Read the follow-up post at The Blogfather.

Chopsticks as a Way of Life

Dear Xander,

For 34 years, I never learnt how to use chopsticks properly. At the time of this letter, I am 35. Your mother, though able to use chopsticks, also never really got the hang of it, and would default to the metal spoon and fork whenever possible (where not possible, it would usually be in opulent Chinese restaurants where she needs to look presentable in front of relatives).

You started asking to use chopsticks since you turned 3. Nearly a year later, you’ve made more progress with using chopsticks than your fishball-stabbing mother and I would have at your age. Needless to say, we are impressed, and proud.

But there’s much more to the way of the chopstick than just making things difficult for people in Chinese/Thai/Vietnamese/Korean/Japanese restaurants. It’s something I learned a 2 years ago that spurred me to refine my hand in wielding the sticks at the dinner table. And it began with something Jerry Seinfeld said.
Many a Western diner cannot understand why Asians continue to maintain such a convoluted, centuries-old method of eating. Of course, we would agree with them, particularly when it comes to their food, which we also happily tuck into with fork, spoon and knife as customarily prescribed. But you will also learn through your own experience that with some Asian food, there is simply no compromise.

You see, there are certain dishes in Asian cuisine that require a very delicate touch; tofu, sashimi, dim sum, and particularly xiao long bao come to mind. Such delicacies require a gentle, yet experienced and masterful hand to cut, create, process, prepare and present to dinner guests, with the intention that once it is laid on its receptacle, be it a porcelain dish, a bamboo basket, or a leaf of green, it must maintain its form as its maker intended right up to the point where it enters the mouth of a patron. For many of these dishes, once its aesthetic is broken, so will its soul be lost, not only in taste, but in the eyes and mind of the diner and the chef.

So where forks are merely tools for the efficient transportation of food into our mouths, chopsticks are utensils of respect. Respect the food enough to handle it with care, and it will return that respect with all the meaning and character that its creator intended.

And if ever anyone tells you chopsticks are too difficult to use, just say, yes. Of course they are. Respect, after all, is not easily earned.

Respectfully,

Dad

Image

Understanding

Dear Xander,

Your 4th birthday approaches, and with it, your growing maturity. It is ironic that I speak of your maturity at such a young age, yet it manifests in ways your mother and I simply do not expect.

And last Sunday, you made it clear to me just how much you’ve grown.

Your mother and I had a crossing of words, stemming from a supermarket, and moving on to one of our not-so-usual fights during the drive home. Your mother was planning on buying groceries home to cook the night’s dinner. I thought we were eating out. One thing led to another, and suddenly it was finances, my unemployment, tears, and silence.

Things were more or less resolved by the time we reached home, and we were getting ready for bed while your mother was in the shower. As we started to drift off to sleep, you said something to me, the significance of which I didn’t realise until much later.

“Daddy, tomorrow I’m going to school?” you asked.

“Yep,” I replied.

“So Daddy pick me up from school tomorrow?” you asked again.

“Yes, I will,” I replied.

“After Daddy pick me up, Mummy pick me up?” This was our usual after-school routine, where I pick you up from school and we wait for your mother to arrive from the office in the car before we went to dinner together.

“Um, yes.”

“Then we go home first, okay?”

“Huh? Then what about dinner?”

“We eat at home.”

I told your mother what you said the next day, and mid-conversation it dawned on me that you understood your mother and I were quarreling about dinner the previous night.

And you were helping me plan out the next evening’s activities so that we wouldn’t run into the same problem again.

What did I do to deserve an angel like you?

Yours, for as long as I live,

Dad

We interrupt this programme to tell you we’re interrupting this programme

Dear all,

Most of you have come to expect my letters to Xander to arrive every Monday. The last two weeks have seen a couple of unscheduled letters that were posted nearer the end of the week.

I did intend to keep a schedule for the letters, but being a personal blog, I do also realise neither my life nor Xander is inclined to conform to my plans, so here’s the deal.

I’ll still try to write weekly, but let’s keep the day of the week a surprise, shall we? It isn’t so much a rhetorical question, so do let me know in the comments if you think it’s a good idea.

Love,

Winston