Lunch performance, with a baby
A scene in a restaurant, two recipes, and eating notes
Hello! My name is Rebecca May Johnson, I am a writer and cook and this is my Substack. This week’s newsletter is a diary entry about a baby in a restaurant, recipes for salad and sorbet, and eating notes.
My book SMALL FIRES, AN EPIC IN THE KITCHEN is published this week! You can order it here (UK, US, & Europe) and it’s already in a few bookshops. Lots of events on the horizon all over the UK, too, so I hope to get to chat to some of you soon! The book received some wonderful reviews in the last few weeks in The Observer, The Sunday Times and the i Paper.
A mini giveaway for people who have the book to be announced next week!
Lunch performance, with a baby
We went to eat dim sum on Friday afternoon to celebrate Sam being free from covid after a week attempting to isolate in the same house. Soup dumplings, prawn and chive dumplings, prawn spring rolls, deep fried dough stick in cheung fun, turnip cake, roast pork pastry puffs, steamed spare ribs with a few black beans and chilli, and jasmine tea. I had not tried dough stuck cheung fun before, which was like a savoury doughnut in a tender rice noodle – a pleasing combination of textures and effective at taking on the dressing and chilli sauce. While we were eating, two women arrived to eat lunch with a pram that occasionally bounced when a baby moved its legs. They had a big plate of fried noodles and something else I didn’t see. Noises and laughing drifted over from their table, we looked over and one of the women was now holding the baby up, who was visibly happy and very cute. The woman, taking pleasure in our appreciative glance and wanting to keep it going, suddenly said,
“I like to pretend she’s a machine gun.”
and held the baby horizontally, mid-air, slightly under her arm and jiggled the baby as if she were a gun reverberating from being fired, saying,
and there were explosions of giggles from the baby, and the woman, noting our rapt amusement, repeated the performance, but more,
The baby laughed lots more, delighted at this game. Then the woman, continuing the logic, said,
“I like to pretend she’s being shot, too”
And then turned the baby vertical as if she were a soldier on a battlefield, and jiggled her backwards as if she were receiving shots from a gun. The baby giggled and beamed, looking around at us all and the woman, now engrossed in the baby’s joy, kept going for more giggles. The performance was surreal in the extreme; it was hard to make sense of the relation between what the woman described and the exuberant happiness we were seeing. It was very very funny! The woman was just so happy to make the baby laugh, the baby was so happy to be jiggled and oblivious to the description of violence. The woman and the baby became the central focus of the large, near empty dining room with lunch stragglers and a few people having dim sum. Before our eyes a gun became a laughing baby – it was not the other way round. Language did not fulfil its promise, and violence was swapped for joy that cannot yet perceive such violence and so erupts in laughter instead.
recipes and eating notes below
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