Met the wonderful Miss Glenda for dinner the other night at Rumi, which is an elegant but loud Lebanese restaurant in East Brunswick. It’s Lebanese in the sense that many smart restaurants in Melbourne are Greek, French, or whatever. Ethnicity is a train track rather than a station, to mangle what Samuel Delany said about the meanings of words.
The meaning of our ethnicity is as confused as anything else. I heard an interview with my late mother, firm but gentle in her insistence that she felt Dutch, or, at most, a Teenager, no matter how persistently Maria Zijlstra sought traces of minority identity. Her family had lived in the Indonesian archepeligo for over two hundred years. Aboriginal-Irish-English-Scottish Australians are politically regarded as Indigenous, which is a good thing. My mother was regarded as an Indo. (This group, during the Japanese occupation of the Indonesian archipelago, was too large to imprison.) Her point to Maria was, though, that your immediate surroundings count for so much.
And the ethnicity we make, like a track laid down in front of us (and taken up too sometimes, or at least let rust), can be taken into your imagination to produce fine food.
I would like to write about my ethnicity that way. (I’d also like to not fill people up uncomfortably the way Rumi doesn’t.)