Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Setting the Example

We decided we're like Sumatran tigers: near extinction but with a colorful past.

"We" are two oldest children, he the first of five spanning 13 years and me the first of six in 8 years. That kind of oldest child pressure changes a person in dozens of unseen ways that only reveal themselves with time and the proper situation.

Yet a fellow oldest can spot you at fifty paces and we'd done just that.

In order to compare first born notes, we settled in for dinner on the patio at Acacia, where it was warm, yes, but with enough of a dry breeze to hint at September's intent to hang around. We had the patio to ourselves until a threesome appeared and were seated right next to us.

The young couple of the trio sounded like recent come-heres, with all kinds of recently-acquired insider information for the older visiting relative based on the five months they've lived here.

"Around here, restaurants better be good or poof! in six months, they're gone. This is a foodie town and Richmond takes their restaurants seriously," she told the visitor with all the authority of a newcomer.

She turned out to be a bit less adept with the wine list, giving the table over to their more-than-capable server with explicit instructions: "We don't want sweet." It took some convincing for her to believe that the server understood the preference.

It was a different story once they'd been served their first Gruner Veltliner, as they crowed and exclaimed over how she'd served them the best wine of their lives.

Meanwhile over at our table, we were comparing notes on similar childhoods, at least as remembered by two put-upon oldest children.

He recalled his parents' parties where overflowing ashtrays and martinis were the norm while my (slightly younger) parents hosted mint julep parties (the mint grown in our side yard) where everyone played the Newlywed Game and gave dirty answers.

Both of us remembered parents who constantly encouraged us to read, but we were less sure whether they still did so with younger siblings, given that discipline definitely got slacker with the passage of time. My parents used to explain it away by saying they were just tired by the time they got around to raising the little ones, but his folks had given him the same line.

No fair, the child in me still thinks. Get over it and eat, the hungry adult insists.

As pointed out by nearly everyone who walked by, it was a gorgeous night to eat outside.

Because it read like a shopping list of things I love, I began with a salad of arugula, cantaloupe, skin-on peaches (sliced thinly enough that I could enjoy four slices without my mouth itching), barley (my current grain obsession), cashew and lots of red onion with a honey anise vinaigrette.

The lovely salad was just my justification to tear into a large pan-roasted rockfish collar with fried corn arepas and mounds of avocado salsa for richness (not that the collar meat itself wasn't plenty obscene), but what the dish also provided was a stepping off point for discussion of all the Friday nights of our childhoods where both our over-sized families ate fish for dinner because our Dads shared a love of fishing regularly.

I gotta be honest, it isn't often you talk to someone who recalls a family freezer full of their father's catches of the day and admits to the deep-seated fear of disappointing the parents that only an oldest child knows from birth.

Friendships have been started with far less.

No comments:

Post a Comment