When a boy offers you the last of something tasty, scraps all of the fish meat from the bone and gives you the last bit (that he really wants) he’s a keeper. My mother says you can judge a person by their table manners and their relationship with food: how generous they are as a person and with money, how they like to share or not to share, how diverse and adventurous they are and basically if they care about you at all and how self centred they are or are not.
When boys open doors, pulls a chair out or gets up because you need to go to the powder room in a formal restaurant – its amazing to be treated like a princess. Its a change to the various mishaps I have had in my life.
After 60 years together, my grandparents still hold hands at the table
There have been many incidences over the years of my bringing home a boy and he mis behaves at the table. I had always had such high hopes for the boys but they would show their true colours at the dinner table and there wasn’t anything anyone can do to hide the hues.
Sometimes, it happens straight away but sometimes, it lurks and only years or months after you have fallen in love and decided to be in a relationship or worse, move in with the person, the manners topple.
It is never polite in a Vietnamese culture to hoard food from the table onto your bowl or dish. When there are dishes of food on the table for sharing, they are meant for sharing and it is never customary to take half a fillet of the fish and plonk it onto your own bowl. We are only to take what we would eat there and then and come back for more.
So when a boy does that, it is forgivable because he doesn’t know our culture, but if he hurriedly and repeatedly commits the crime and snatches the food whilst someone else is trying to get at it, its a No! There have been so many times when I am trying to pick up a piece of meat or fish with my chopsticks and he just snatches it from me like some sort of a weasel, with no shame whatsoever and throws it into his mouth like a thief. He would even chuckle at his success, especially when he takes a piece from your chopsticks in mid air.
There was one who took all of the meaty duck onto his plate and left the boney bits. Or the one who says, I can’t deal with bones so I am not going to eat it; did you put any sugar in that? If so, I’ll make something else…
The worst one was over Tet, a Lunar New Year celebration where traditional food must be cooked and eaten, a boy sat down at the table, had a look at everything including a whole duck, spring rolls, New Years cake and the works and said, I am not eating that, sorry, I fancy a roast and got up and made a whole roast dinner. What the hell? That ruined the new year celebrations and cursed the year to come. Our relationship was of course, doomed.
My uncle and his sons when we visited LA
Order a hot pot and do the sharing test
Sharing food is one of the most important things in the Vietnamese culture and I love the way one can display a stream of affection in one meal. First of all, by cooking it with love and always picking up the meatiest tastiest slice of pork belly or fish flesh and offering it to the one you are most affectionate with – a special guest, a young child, a parent, a sibling, a lover.
Loud discussions over dinner are always welcomed but eating in silence and shared solitude is also enjoyed. There needs to be no song nor dance because to just enjoy food together seems to be enough when you share everything.
A rare picture of people at the dinner table (back in the day)
My cousins In Vietnam
It is great news when the boy brings and offers food, like oysters or dessert and even a bottle of champagne because he loves food, he loves eating and he loves to share it all with you and he would try anything you make, eat it all even if sometimes he doesn’t even like it.
If he goes one step further and makes a home cooked meal of many courses, made with love and care, it is definitely more romantic than eating out. He has everything prepped and ready, everything cleared and cleaned up – and just finishes off and serves you. I love it.
What about when a boy cooks for you and its a disaster? I have been invited to dinner at 6, had to wait in the pub with his mother and brother because he’s off drinking somewhere else till 1030 -and we are waiting…for a long time… now thats a bit awkward and boring too… to be continued…