I have a milestone coming up. I’m about to transcend my twenties and face a new decade. I’ve had plenty of preparation leading up to the event though. Most of my good friends have already turned thirty over the last few years so I’ve been celebrating the milestone for others for so long I’ve felt 30 for the last few years.
Even with the mental preparation, as the big day draws near I find myself getting more nervous and exulting in small pleasures – like ticking that “age 25 – 29” bracket in applications and letting out a triumphant whoop as though I’m somehow victorious over the evil three-o. Within a few days I will migrate to a different demographic and will magically morph into the target of bogus early signs anti-aging products with fictitious miracle ingredients that anger biochemistry professors around the world, and grey hair colourants (the Co-pilot gleefully points out every white hair that appears, and like an Animal Planet monkey grooming scene he enthusiastically identifies each offending strand and produces it as evidence of my age).
But there are always opportunities within every dark corner. This major milestone represented a unique opportunity to bring my family and the Co-pilot’s family together.
It’s not the first time our families have met, but the one and only time they have met was disastrous. Six years ago, when the Co-pilot and I had been together for two years, the Co-pilot’s family requested to meet mine. This was an absolutely normal request, the Co-pilot and his family knew everything about me and being normal, social people wanted to meet my family.
Ah, but the problem is – my family aren’t really what you’d call “normal“. My parents are very traditional Chinese folk and strictly speaking, the respective families of a couple shouldn’t meet unless marriage is being discussed. As that wasn’t the case, they couldn’t fathom why our families should possibly want to meet. Oh, that and my parents don’t speak much English and are extremely awkward and anti-social. That’s not a Chinese hallmark. That’s just a unique characteristic of my parents.
Still, I stubbornly persisted and insisted they meet the Co-pilot’s family. And begrudgingly, they relented. They met over a lovely afternoon tea setting in the Co-pilot’s family home. Despite driving about an hour to get there, the meeting lasted a mere 20 minutes and in hindsight, that was a good thing. My parents said very little, smiled awkwardly, answered questions they were asked, then about 10 minutes into the meeting, like toddlers they started tugging on my sleeve and whispering “Can we go now?”. This continued, none too discreetly, for another excruciatingly painful 10 minutes before I gave in much to everyone’s relief and bundled them out the door and into the car.
Not surprisingly, no-one has mentioned anything about organising another family meeting in the six years since then.
But time has a funny way of suppressing memories and clouding your better judgment. And I reasoned that my 30th was the ultimate trump card I needed to bring our families together again, this time introducing my brother and his family too. Surprisingly, my parents agreed without much resistance – it was so easy actually that I found it disturbing and started to expect the worst.
To ensure the day went as smoothly as possible, we opted for a simple picnic in Ballast Point Park, Balmain. A new park with stunning, sweeping views over Sydney Harbour. I’d organised a deli platter of delicious cold cuts, cheese, olives and antipasto from PR Ranieri, our favourite deli in Five Dock; bbq chooks; sandwich ingredients, snacks and drinks. The Co-pilot’s mum kindly offered to help make a few salads too – a green salad and a tomato, bocconcini and basil salad. The only thing left for us to do was make the Co-pilot’s famous potato salad. It’s deliciously moreish, tangy and easy to make.
The Co-pilot’s ultimate potato salad
Salad ingredients (serves 10):
- 7 desiree potatoes, peeled and chopped into bitesize chunks (about 5cm blocks)
- 3 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into bitesize chunks
- 5 rashers of bacon, coarsely chopped
- 1 cup of parsley, coarsely chopped
- 1 cup of dill, coarsely chopped
- 2 tbsp cornichons, coarsely chopped
- 2 tbsp kalamata olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
- 1 tbsp of capers, rinsed, drained and coarsely chopped
- 1/2 red onion, finely diced
- 10 tbsp whole egg mayonnaise
- 10ml of white wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp horseradish cream
- 2 tbsp wholegrain Dijon mustard
- salt and pepper to taste
- Boil the potatoes in plenty of salted water for 3 minutes before adding the sweet potatoes. Boil for a further 17 minutes. Drain and set aside.
- Meanwhile fry the bacon until crisp and drain on paper towels
- Combine the potato, sweet potato, bacon and remaining salad ingredients.
- Mix the dressing ingredients together well to combine and dress salad. Voila!
This potato salad is a crowd pleaser, and if there are leftovers, it makes the best cold snack! With salads made, we were prepared for the trial ahead.
On the day of the picnic, the sun was shining, a gentle breeze blew in from the harbour and everyone was in good spirits. The Co-pilot’s family were lovely as always; my brother and sister-in-law were cheerful and chatty as per usual and my parents tried their best to be friendly and social (a novel concept). But the stars of the show and the saviours whenever awkward silences descended were my adorable niece and nephew, Summer and Kobi. Only 3.5 and 2 years old respectively, they entertained everyone with their endless amounts of energy, smiles, infectious giggles and demand for attention. No one even noticed that my parents only spoke about 5 times and only spoke when asked a question. But what is the real lesson to be learnt here today? Always ensure there are kids at family gatherings. Kids deflect attention away from social dysfunction.
All things considered, it was a successful day – no-one walked out, there weren’t arguments, and other than the kids, no-one even cried. Everyone even noted how it was a pleasant and peaceful day and what a great setting it was. The beginnings of a small bridge are being built between our two families. Nonetheless, the Co-pilot and I breathed a joint sigh of immense relief when it was over. Perhaps now it won’t be six years between meetings.
So I found an upside to (almost) turning 30.
And there are more posts on the celebrations to come…by