Delighted to welcome back memoir author Sherri Matthews with four posts sharing her experiences of childhood and teens and living in the UK after many years in California. In her first post.. a little nostalgia and for those of us who enjoyed our first dining experiences in a Chinese restaurant of one of the steak houses such as Berni Inn.. it will bring back memories.
Times Past Challenge: Chinese Spoons And Eating Out
Dressed to impress in my purple and white midi dress my mother had made for me and patent leather, navy-blue sling back shoes with block heels, I walked into the dimly lit Chinese restaurant, mesmerised by the brightly coloured lanterns hanging from the ceiling and the soft, almost hypnotic music filling the room.
It was the mid 70’s, I was twelve and staying with my dad for the school holidays in Brighton, and he was taking me and my brother out for dinner. My first time eating out at a restaurant for an evening meal and, as it turned out, the last time with my dad.
I didn’t know what to order, so Dad ordered what he was having: a bowl of crab and sweetcorn soup. When the waiter placed the small, deep bowl in front of me, I wasn’t sure at first what to make of the strange, thick-looking soup with the white streaks floating amongst the sweetcorn.
Dad urged me to try it, warning me to be careful as it was very hot, a fact borne out by his steamed up glasses. And then I noticed the white, ladle-like Chinese style spoon placed next to my bowl. I had never seen such a spoon; its shape and also the unusual design on its base fascinated me.
As a tail-end ‘Baby Boomer’ growing up in 60s and 70s southern England, eating out at a restaurant for an evening meal just wasn’t done. The cost was out of reach for my parents and even if cost wasn’t a factor, restaurants were not family-friendly.
The only ‘fast food’ we had, and then as a rare treat, was when my mother left me and my brother in the care of my dad for the day when she took her prized Siamese cats to London for a cat show. Dad always, I say always, got us fish and chips wrapped in newspaper for lunch, which we ate at home with plenty of salt, vinegar, fat pickled onions and lashings of tomato ketchup.
We didn’t eat out as kids, but we did enjoy family gatherings, such as this tea party for a cousin’s birthday. Me on the right. Always the kid with chocolate on her face. Nothing’s changed…(c) Sherri Matthews
Pubs, if you were lucky, offered crisps, peanuts and sometimes a cold sausage roll or curled up ham sandwich on dry, white bread spread with margarine. Pub meals were not the thing and children weren’t allowed inside. By the time I was old enough to go with my friends, the only meals on offer, at least in the pubs where I hung out in Ipswich, were scampi, chicken or sausages and chips served in red, plastic-weaved baskets.
These ‘inns’ were all the rage across the country in the 70’s because they offered all and sundry an affordable, three course meal consisting of prawn cocktail, steak with all the trimmings (in Britain this means mushrooms, peas, grilled tomatoes and chips) and Black Forest Gateau. Also included was a glass of wine and coffee to follow. Very swish, we thought.
I remember that night for two things: the black maxi dress I wore, thinking how grown up I must have looked, and the horrendous stomach ache I had later on. I blamed it on the coffee which never did agree with me. It was a great night out other than that.
But it is the memory of a Chinese meal one night in Brighton that endures: the soup was delicious, the spoons fascinating and the time with my dad priceless.
This post is written in response to an intriguing monthly challenge set by memoir writer Irene in 2016 over at Reflections and Nightmares
‘I’d like to invite you to join with me in a prompt challenge that will give us social insights into the way the world has changed between not only generations but also between geographical location. The prompt can be responded to in any form you enjoy – prose, poetry, flash, photographs, sketches or any other form you choose. You may like to use a combination of the two. I will also add a series of questions for those that would like to join in but don’t know where to start.’
©Sherri Matthews 2016
My thanks to Sherri for sharing her eating out experiences in the 70s and having worked in a Schooner Inn (Berni Inn rival) in the mid 70s… it brought back a lot of memories..
About Sherri Matthews
While bringing her memoir, Stranger in a White Dress, to publication, Sherri is published in magazines and anthologies. Blogging at her summerhouse, Sherri writes from her life as a Brit mum of three twenty years in California, her misadventures with her jailbird dad, and as Mum and carer to her adult, Aspie youngest. As in life, telling the story one word, one day at a time, Sherri believes that memoir brings alive the past, makes sense of the present and gives hope for the future. Today, Sherri lives in England with her hubby, Aspie and menagerie of pets fondly called, ‘Animal Farm’ and advocates that laughter is indeed the best medicine
Memoir Book Blurb
Stranger In A White Dress
‘We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned,
so as to have the life that is waiting for us.’
~E. M. Forster~
Set against the backdrop of the late 1970s, the story of a chance meeting one summer’s night between two eighteen year olds unfolds: Sherri, an English girl living in rural Suffolk, and Jonathan (Jon), an American G. I. from California newly posted to a USAF base nearby.
They fall in love fast, but Sherri, delighted to show off her homeland to this “new boy”, soon discovers that although growing up thousands of miles apart, they share dark similarities, which quickly threaten to unravel their relationship.
Their mothers divorced from alcoholic fathers, both were raised by abusive step-fathers. Jon’s increasing drug use and resulting paranoia clash with Sherri’s insecurities as hopes of “fixing” him and of the stable family life she dreams of slip away.
Los Angeles and lust; obsession and rage; passion and the power of love: theirs is a love affair defined by break-ups and make-ups, and then a shattering revelation explodes into this already volatile mix, altering the course of both their lives profoundly and forever.
A tale of darkest tragedy, yet dotted with moments of hilarity and at times the utterly absurd, this is a story of two young people who refuse to give up, believing their love will overcome all.
Not until decades after their chance meeting, and during a return trip to Los Angeles in 2013, does Sherri discover that Jon’s last wish has been granted.
It’s then that she knows the time has come to tell her story.
Sherri’s Memoir is in the final stages of editing and will be available later this year.
Here are the anthologies that Sherri has contributed to. Click the covers to buy.
Blog A View from my Summerhouse: sherrimatthewsblog.com
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/aviewfrommysummerhouse
My thanks to Sherri for sharing this glimpse into her teens and I know she would love your feedback.. thanks Sally.