On our first night in Melbourne, we made a pilgrimage to my old favourite haunt from the days when I lived in this city - the Shanghai Dumpling House. An unremarkable building down Tattersalls Lane but within lurked the most glorious treasures imaginable.
From September 2005 to April 2007, you would find me there at least one night a week (and maybe one lunchtime too). Such was the lure of dumplings. And I loved the rough-and-ready atmosphere, completely devoid of pretension. It was a place I sought refuge in, for the stomach and the soul.
At age 25, I felt so alive and powerful in this city, like anything was possible. I loved Melbourne and it loved me right back. While the city changed a lot in the years since I’d been gone, the dumpling house was like a little time portal, exactly the place I remembered. The menus, the tables, the staff, the prices, the urns of tea, the vats of chilli soy sauce, the strange 90s music they played...it was all still the same, every time I returned.
But on our return this time, it had changed. Nothing bad, the food was still yummy, but just lots of those little details were different, which means it is not the place 25 year old Phil frequented any more. That place only exists in my memory now. To not want to claim this space and ritual for myself anymore means acknowledging how much time has passed. While the dumplings were still good, I realised I was now just going there out of nostalgia, nothing more. And that was a surprisingly sad revelation. I guess we’ve all been there, revisiting somewhere that meant so much to us in years past, only to find it doesn’t quite stir the same emotions in us any more. But that’s good, it means we’ve changed. And change is life.
So, on a friend’s recommendation, the following night we tried another dumpling and noodle house...which was a divinely delicious experience. If you’ve been to the Nong Tang Noodle House and had these chilli oil dumplings, you’ll understand.
So, it would seem that when the time is right, it’s surprisingly easy to move on, grateful for the memories but ready for something new. Especially if it involves chilli.