Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Guest Writer Sherri Matthews – #Memoir – Times Past Challenge: Chinese Spoons And Eating Out

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. Me on the right. Always the kid with chocolate on my face. Nothing's changed... (c) Sherri Matthews

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.

But when I was seventeen, my Radio Caroline listening boyfriend took me out for a meal for my birthday to a Berni Inn

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.

Connect to Sherri.

Blog A View from my Summerhouse:
Facebook Author Page:

My thanks to Sherri for sharing this glimpse into her teens and I know she would love your feedback.. thanks Sally.



61 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Guest Writer Sherri Matthews – #Memoir – Times Past Challenge: Chinese Spoons And Eating Out

  1. Thank you so much, Sally for the lovely write up and spread. This helps so much while I forge ahead on the last of my edits. It’s always a surprise re-reading these ‘old’ posts and the memories they bring back all over again 🙂 I’ll be back a bit later with my post to link…big hugs to you! ❤ xxx

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Reblogged this on A View From My Summerhouse and commented:
    Hello again dear friends, too long away and enough said about that because setbacks will always prevail, but I am hard at work bringing this roundof edits to a close, almost there for the final read through. Hooray! Meanwhile, thank you so much to wonderful Sally Cronin who is featuring four of my archive memoir posts at her fantastic blog for the next four Thursdays. Truly honoured to guest post with Sally, her support invaluable.Today is about my dad and Chinese Spoons. One thing I will quickly add, I realise in the post I mention it was my last meal with my dad in a restaurant, but it was written before I took him out for his 80th birthday. That was the last meal we had out together, and how very grateful I am for that chance. The passage of time certainly concentrates the mind, doesn’t it? Onward and upward it is then…and as always, thank you so much for reading. Love Sherri x

    Liked by 2 people

  3. The only time we ever ate out was when our dad took us to a Chinese restaurant in Nottingham. These treats were quite infrequent and much enjoyed. I can relate to the fish and chips wrapped in newspaper too. This happened once a week on a Friday. So looking forward to reading Sherri’s memoir. I’m sure it will be a very gripping story.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. We didn’t eat out a lot as kids, poor preacher’s family, but when we did, Dad always ordered for us, to make sure we ordered the cheapest thing! And water, always water. thanks for sharing your lovely memories Sherri!
    ❤ Melinda

    Liked by 2 people

  5. So nice to see Sherri here today. Loved that snippet of childhood Sher. It’s funny how country’s cultures differ. I don’t remember too many home cooked meals – more, going out for Chinese with my dad or ordering pizza or going to McDonalds. Good times – not really. ❤ xoxo

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I have wee goosebumps now. I remember those days. I was 17 before I got to eat out in a proper restaurant. I ordered chicken Maryland. I thought it was amazing! Yes, times have changed. Thank you Sherri and Sally!

    Liked by 2 people

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  8. Thank you, Sally, for sharing this post of Sherri’s. It’s a delight. Special times with family are always memorable, one way or the other. I agree with Sherri, that restaurants were just not child-friendly when I was growing up, and even if they were, my family couldn’t afford it. We very occasionally had fish and chips from the fish shop, wrapped in newspaper. But even that wasn’t very often as Dad used to enjoy getting out on the water in his little dinghy and often brought back a catch of fish that would last for days or weeks.
    The photo of Sherri with her cousins is very cute. I can’t see the chocolate on her face but I can imagine it. My granddaughter enjoys a chocolate ice cream each week when I collect her from school and she always gets it all over her face. 🙂
    I have been looking forward to reading Sherri’s book for years. Reading the blurb here makes me even more excited to do so. I’m so pleased it is nearing completion and that I won’t have to wait much longer.

    Liked by 1 person

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