Phamly dinner

August 04, 2017


Mum Pham lived in the kitchen. The woman spent most of her life there, and when we lived in council flats she spent her days and nights in a cluttered, tiny kitchen nook staring at a stained cream turned yellow wall with one jammed window behind her to the side when she was at the stove. I was a pretty vague, ignorant and naive kid for the most part, but even my little mind knew I wanted something better for mum.

I always wanted to buy her a house with a beautiful view from the kitchen overlooking a giant garden where she’d plant all her favourite things. Life didn’t turn out that way - she’s passed now, and I don’t even know if I’ll ever be a homeowner the way prices are going. Mum loved the house Dad Pham bought when they moved to Brisbane. Sure, it’s in a suburb where Struggle Street was filmed and her kitchen overlooked a car port, the neighbour’s house and part of the street but it was a dream compared to the flat.

I have to be content that she was happy in this kitchen where all us Phamlings still gather every weekend for a Phamly feast. I try to make it a home cooked meal with Dad every week, but every now and then when I don’t have time during the day to grocery shop and prep food with Dad, we have take out. But it’s always take out together. Very rarely do we skip a week because everyone’s schedules won’t work or some of us are sick. Even then, one of the siblings will visit Dad or have him over for dinner.

Phamly dinner is a way for me to honour and remember Mum, so even though some weekends I wish I could just stay home and enjoy a lazy day, especially if I’ve had a big Saturday, I still drag my sorry butt to Inala to make Phamly dinner happen. It’s usually a Vietnamese dish. Now that I’m vegetarian, I prep the food with Dad then he cooks the meat version and I cook the vegetarian version for me and Eldest Niece. Prepping Phamly dinner is also when I get most of my quotable Dad quotes because we chat while we cook.

Then come dinner time, Little Sissy Pham rocks up to set the dinner table, and finish prep for the calm before the storm. When Big Brother Pham, his mini-me’s and wife rock up, it turns into a feeding frenzy while we all talk over each other at the table in English and Vietnamese conversations. Dad doesn’t understand us when we speak English too quickly so he doesn’t wait for an appropriate break in conversation, he’ll just start a new thread in Vietnamese whenever he damn well pleases. And I wouldn’t have it any other way because Mum used to do that too.

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