(This post is the second of a five-part series on what I saw, experienced, and learned during mine and Carrie's honeymoon to New Zealand by way of San Francisco and Hong Kong. Yes, this was a time of rest and vacation for the both of us, but it is in fact quite difficult for someone who deals in profoundness for a living to escape such depth of meaning simply because he is off relaxing in another country. I was moved in many ways during my short time away, and I hope at least a faint morsel or two of that impact shines through in my words to you here. Finally, all pictures in this series are taken by me unless noted otherwise. I'm not a great photographer, so be gentle. ~E.A.)
For me, there is, and always has been (at least since I graduated to baby food to solids) something happy and joyous about sitting down to a meal. Part of that I am sure is the satiating of my hanger (I'm rather prone to getting hangry), and another part of it is, I am equally sure, simply because I am a disgusting glutton, but part of it is also spiritual. Meals are what celebrate the liberation of the Israelites out of slavery, the liberation of us all out of sin (via the Last Supper), as well as more civic holidays like Thanksgiving (What? That's around the corner?! Holy crap).
Meal-sharing really is a Biblical thing--when the prodigal son returns to his father, shamed and chastened, the forgiving father has the fatted calf slaughtered and served in a celebratory banquet. Much of Jesus' teaching takes place around a dinner table, be it at Simon the Pharisee's palatial digs or at Mary and Martha's more humble abode in Bethany. And in Psalm 23, far and away the most famous of them all, we may all know how it begins ("The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want...") but how it ends includes the verse "you prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies."
Even though New Zealand is far from an enemy (in fact, almost across the board, the Kiwis we met were friendly, open, and exceedingly gracious hosts), Carrie and I sat at tables prepared across the country: some prepared by others, and some prepared by ourselves.
The first table, though, came in Hong Kong (our exploits there you can read about here), when we stumbled entirely by accident upon a second-floor dim sum joint that was incredibly endearing to us: not only was the carpet, walls, and decor likely from the 1970s or so, but the clientele largely consisted of two demographics: elderly men and women, and their middle-aged children accompanying them to breakfast.
(As an aside, stumbling entirely by accident was pretty much our default mode of transportation in Hong Kong. The only reason we even knew which stop to get off at on the bus was because some well-meaning schoolchildren got to practice their English by reading the bus stops off to us, since we of course had no idea where we were.)
This restaurant has communal tables, and I have to say that as a card-carrying introvert, I actually heartily endorse the use of communal tables in restaurants. We sat across from two different couples--one younger and one older, and while C and I spoke no Chinese and they spoke no English, the smiles and gestures were enough to communicate our enjoyment of the meals we were having, and that truly did add to the richness of what we were experiencing.
The true culinary richness of our trip would come in New Zealand, though: we landed in Auckland from Hong Kong on C's birthday, and so I took her to The Grove, a restaurant I researched extensively and booked weeks beforehand for this evening. It was homework well worth doing.
I only have a picture of one of the five courses we ate, but it was by far the most virtuousic one, ash-baked parsnip with with apples and carmelized red endives: