As much as I love the city, sometimes I need to get away from New York. And I usually do it by a four-hour, $15, Chinatown bus ride to visit Jenny and her family in Boston. Well actually Westborough, Massachusetts, but Westborough Interlude just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
Visiting the Sricharoenchaikit (just sound it out, sri-cha-roen-chai-kit) family lets me venture into suburbia. And it’s as exciting as visiting another country, taking in the sights; the strip malls, lawns, Volvos, soccer moms (now hockey moms) and houses, widely spaced no less. This was the everyday exotic that I missed while in the city.
While visiting, Jenny would organize little tours or events. There was a culinary tour of the historic North End, where I learned how fennel helps in digestion and tasted for the first time, a fresh, lusciously honey-sweet fig.
Marzipan at Maria’s
There was a trip with her family to the “Ghetto Fabulous” (in a good way) Hampton Beach in New Hampshire. We basked on the beach in the warm sunlight, walked on the boardwalk where there were carnival games and hermit crabs in little terrariums for sale at the many souvenir shops. Her parents treated me to a great lobster dinner at the local restaurant.
Together with her sisters, the Sri girls, we visited Canobie Lake Amusement Park, an old childhood favorite of Jenny’s. I ate funnel cake and tried not to regurgitate it on those puke rides.
She introduced me to my first Cuban pig roast, at a family friend’s house. It was a whole day gorge-fest of food and alcohol. The main event was a whole pig, expertly roasted for hours, resulting in delicately crisp skin and succulently tender meat. The pig was laid out in the kitchen with a knife beside it. We just helped ourselves to it and the numerous other Latin dishes there. We ate the pork with a pinch of sea salt and lime, and chased it with shots of Patrón, to “cut the fat.” We would eat, drink, eat, drink, nap and then repeat the cycle, the only variable being how much we ate and drank before our little power naps. By the end of the day-night we had consumed the whole pig.
But most of the time we just hung out at home. And that was perhaps the most enjoyable time of my trips there.
That was the only family time I had.
I’ve been living by myself ever since I was 18 and conscripted into the Singapore Army. My parents, at that time were posted to Taiwan. While in college they were in Australia and while I was in New York, they were in Brunei, where they currently live. The Sri family took me in and cared for me like their own. I am so grateful for their hospitality. There was nothing as enjoyable to me, as sitting around the dinner table, eating and talking as a family. The food, seasoned with the warmth and generosity of the Sri family always tasted wonderful.