The laksa was hot, deliciously chilli hot and coconut creamy, filled with juicy prawns but only the obligatory five of course, smoothly slurping rice noodles, a smattering of vegetables and tofu sufficient to meet some sort of health brief, and rounded out with the raw bean sprouts supplied as a side extra. My wife had her usual vegetable pho just as she likes it with extra mushrooms and a reduced quantity of noodles. This was lunch at the Vietnamese restaurant on the outside of the small local shopping centre where we eat at least once a week.
After our enjoyable lunch we went on to do some grocery shopping while we were here and as we were coming out of Woolworths with a small bag of shopping I noticed a man sitting on the bench outside the bakery. He had very distinctive patterned tattoos from the Maori tradition going up the side of his neck to just behind his right ear which was obviously part of a larger tattoo pattern covered by his Hi Vis shirt usually worn by manual labourers of all sorts. Nothing else about his appearance helped in any way to clarify his occupation and it was after all only in a glance that I noticed him.
Just as we were about to walk past him the lady from the sushi bar to our right called out his order, and that sort of surprised me. He was simply waiting for his lunch order, and sushi no less. He rose and went towards the sushi bar counter and as he did the lady presumably asked him whether he wanted some sort of extras with his order. I didn’t make out her question clearly but his answer was quite direct and to the point “Yeah wasabi, soy sauce, the lot.” Now the sushi itself seemed a little out of character but then the answer topped up my amazement. This wasn’t the sort of man, given his appearance, that I would expect this from, he seemed more like a meat pie and chips sort of bloke. But no, he was ordering sushi and from the extent of his answer it wasn’t the first time, he was familiar with the process and what he liked to add to it.
My instant reaction was, well, here is the often mentioned “multiculturalism” in action that we hear bandied about in politics and on shock jock radio, the latter usually accompanied by a little derision, that is if you can have derision in varying quantities. This country has in just my lifetime gone from being populated by a domination of people with an English background who proudly tried to maintain a White Australia policy to a country where all manner of races were starting to intermingle, or co-exist at least, in what is often referred to as multiculturalism. The White Australia policy is now officially defunct and devalued. Here was the new broader Australia as it were in a single small example to my viewpoint. Why not? Are we not all richer from being free from the constraints of a single culture, certainly in food choices?
However allied to this little microcosm of multiculturalism was the prospect, unable to be readily proven, that this same gentleman could be out decrying others on the grounds of race or rallying to protest against immigration without having enough awareness that his taste for sushi and the trimmings are the product of that very same stream of immigration over the last fifty or so years? It is entirely possible.
The real lesson in this observation is however, my own embarrassing class prejudice in making an instant judgement on this man of whom I have no knowledge about other than he wears Hi Vis shirts and buys sushi which he obviously enjoys. Why did I instantly pigeon hole him as a manual labourer coming from, to me at least, a lower social class than my own. My own being of course the grandson of an old gold miner, not exactly up there with the titled nobility 😉 He may even have been a qualified and valued tradesman of some sort like an electrician or a plumber or even perhaps a doctor or dentist with an odd penchant for wearing Hi Vis shirts. Tattooed as well and there goes another judgement, ignoring of course the presence of four tattooes on my arms. And then to top it all off, he may even hold racist views!!! Where does all that come from?
Shame, shame on me, but a valuable lesson learnt however in not rushing in haste to preconceived judgements of my fellow man. It is neither fair, rational nor accurate. Is sushi OK for a white Australian male to eat without others applying all manner of irrational judgements? Sushi is indeed OK.