(or how Katherine grudgingly gave me space on her blog)
Dear friends, brothers and sisters, and perhaps, if I can get away with it; comrades.
I report back to you following my somewhat successful journey behind the silver curtain, I have seen the insides — and I can tell you without pretense, conceit, and though we may need to revisit this one, pomposity — that I have absolutely no insight to give you.
No damning indictment, no juicy morsel, no sliver of previously hidden knowledge that I would ever, Dear Reader, suspect you of not already having. The acquisition of such all done on your gorgeous lonesome, no need for me.
Reality TV, they call it that because that’s what it is. Please don’t suppose I’m trying to pull the wool over your eyes, or for that matter, fleece you.
As you rightly suspect, I suspect, there is team of goblins sat hunched over a graphic equalizer; turning the bass up here, frotting and frothing and fingering the tempo there. This thing after all better be watchable. The tooth fairy no — but with these guys, I hope you consider my poor testimony enough. I’m just speaking to the, if not total, then the finely shaped narrative being its own truth. I’ll vouch for it, and if you don’t trust me then you can be relatively confident that anyone else lounging around on the same marginally exploited settee I’m speaking to you from, would, I think, be comfortable enough eating at least one or two of the grapes on offer. Still, if that ain’t enough, look at the eventual winners and tell me about doubt again. No? Right that’s what I thought.
I won’t bore you with the reasons why someone who considered themselves to be a well-honed cynic, in possession of an almost total lack of desire to have their rugged and brooding good looks broadcast to the nation, would bother with all that guff in the first place. Let’s just say if you pick a bohemian lifestyle, then you better fucking well follow through with it.
Better that than churlishly blaming the questionable judgement of your advisors; after all, they still had some. If you misplace your own, somewhere between the seventh and eighth drink, then don’t go running to others if you truly object to them helping you stand, or their attempts to finally make you a man. Am I making myself clear? If not, then Jugs are $10 after 7pm, every night.
So, with that lengthy confession in mind, perhaps you will find it no surprise that when someone asks, ‘So, was it worth it, what did you learn’; that I feel I have an increasingly banal obligation to say something uplifting, some vague assertion that yes, I definitely had, while being forced to stand knee deep in cold running rivers, felt really lucky to be given the chance to try and sift enough fairy dust to transmutate into something of real value before inevitably being biffed back into standard issue civilian life.
In reality though, I’m usually just stood there thinking,
Man, I really fucking love dumplings now.
Ah yes, well. Here we are then. This is not to say I didn’t love them before, but now, if it were legal, I feel certain that having met the right one I would enter into what is an unfortunately illegal relationship with it.
Or them. Because who can stop at one? Or better yet, who can fathom a scenario in which one dumpling is enough? Who can even imagine a situation in which this would be considered right or proper, and if you concede that may well be unfeasibly difficult, then who wouldn’t consider bringing charges, if it were possible, against the proprietor of an establishment that didn’t immediately provision you with more? How horrid the darkness that we can imagine for ourselves alone.
Yes, I met a lot of people that could make dumplings and make them good. I sucked (even if they don’t know) much of the livery and ritual surrounding the manifestation of the dumpling from them, for which I am undeniably grateful.
It soon became apparent to me however that the dumpling was influencing them, rather than them influencing it. The dumpling has after all, been around a long time and seen a lot of shit. Consider its basic form, yet its myriad innards — how adaptable the dumpling! How perfect it can suit your mood. If you’re anything like me (and you basically are) then you’ll appreciate first the delicate necessity of the chopstick pickup; then the slurp and suckle, and finally the explosion of flavour. Not to mention that when it comes to dumplings in broth, you actually get to eat the baby and drink the bathwater.
Oh yes, the dumpling has seen our type before, will see it again, and has I’m afraid seen a lot more interesting people than us.
Now I’m not saying that Karl Marx might not have been quite as grumpy as he was if he had ready access to all the delicious dumplings he wanted. Yet how much better would it be if people misquoted him like so;
“Dumplings relieve the sigh of the oppressed creature, dumplings are the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. Dumplings are the opium of the people”.
Well, it’s not quite perfect, but let’s not give up!
‘The delicious broth went and plucked the imaginary flowers on the chain not in order that man shall continue to bear that chain without fantasy or consolation, but so that he shall throw off the chain and eat of the living dumpling’.
Better all over, top to bottom I think you’ll agree, and at least you didn’t fall asleep halfway through.
Onwards then, to the spiritual!
When it comes to transcendental meditation, practitioners are supposed to keep their personal mantra to themselves. The unspoken undefined nature of it, its hidden name, gives it power. With this mantra often goes a matching visualization — the most clichéd being of course, the flickering candle. I submit the following as a suitable, not to mention much tastier alternative to both:
“There is a single dumpling floating in broth
The smell of black vinegar pungent on the steam
The dumpling is alone on the surface.
More dumplings will be added, the singular dumpling knows enough to know it is not enough
When this happens; the first dumpling will be forced below the surface
Eventually the broth will overflow the brim
It is then the first dumpling knows
I am a meal.”
When you open your mouth and put something in it, no matter what the situation, the dumpling is going to be low on the list of things you’d object to, and why would you?
In a world of increasing complexity, of camera and television, technology and chatter, the dumpling has survived unscathed. Throughout most of humanity’s tumultuous history it has been there, proud of its potential for taste, yet humble in its simplicity. Ready to sacrifice itself in whatever number you choose, merely in order to silence everything and bring about what must surely be the most quintessentially right state of man; the belly just perfectly full.
So, would going on Masterchef be ‘worth it’?
I guess that depends.
Would you, bend your precious knee to the dumpling? You can only get away with one of the answers.
Glynn Rudolph is one of the great culinary thinkers and makers of our time. He lives in Wellington. He also likes long walks on the beach and candle-less dinners. He does not drive a Skoda Octavia.