In Underrated, we review the ordinary rituals we build around food. Next, we will be eating fish and chips with a side dish of sand.
Eating on the beach is an impractical choice. You can feel the sand in your food, the seagulls won’t respect your boundaries and it is sticky. My family still carries our fish and chips along with us to the ocean. Our fried food is wrapped in off-white tissue like a baby returning home. My dad, who likes to eat pizza with a knife, fork and fork, knows that we need to remove our shoes so the warm grains can wrap around our feet.
Sitting cross-legged near the water sans towels, we watch the hermit crabs scuttle into their holes. We are left with nothing but our food pile to eat, and we lose any sense of decorum. We continue digging our heels into the sand until the cool, damp pockets remain. We begin to tear into the cod chunks, then we spray the lemon juice on everything and let the oil drips fall onto the paper. We feel a bit wild and excited by the wind, which is thick and salty. My Australian family is still toddlers, even though we’re all adults.
The combination of salty air, fried food and fresh air creates a feeling of being at a natural theme park. Our sensory experience is almost entirely sensory: the crash waves. As the sunscreen flies out of a tube, it sploosh . My own red face is a smoldering mess under the last rays of sunlight. A whizz full of frisbees, and the crack sound of a cricket bat flying off of a wooden bat. The inevitable happened: A caw colony of gulls hovering hungrily over our dinner. My dudes, in what world?
In this childlike reverie, nobody cares about who did the dishes last night. Or who ran up the international phone bills. Or who