I’ve been thinking a lot about family lately. As a stereotypical Chinese man, my grampie loved to gamble. Oh, he was not an addict, it was just a way for him to past the time and socialize with his acquaintances. Like most Chinese men, his family was his everything so of course he would share one of his favorite past-times with us.
The Pacific National Exhibition always opens its gates in Vancouver during the last 2 weeks of August catching all the kids (and their pocket money) before school starts. Ever since we were children, my cousins, my brother, and I would always make our way to the PNE with our grampie as he made his way to the racetrack – the outing became a family event. This adventure marks the end of our summer and the start of the new school year. When we were younger, we would head to the park bright and early to catch all the rides and avoid all the lines. After nearly cracking our heads from the Wild Mouse and trying to hold our stomachs down from the Tilt-a-Whirl, we would meet my grampie, gramie, and our parents at the Hastings Race Track, then all head over to Henry’s Outdoor BBQ Chicken for dinner.
Henry has been BBQing at the PNE for over 37 years and is consistently one of the busiest joints in the park. Despite it being hidden off the beaten track and being overly priced (I think it’s almost $10 for half a scrawny chicken!) we just can’t keep ourselves away from this place.
The chicken is slow roasted over an open coal pit and the bbQ masters continuously spray seasonings on to the chicken to maximize the flavors. The constant smokiness coming from this building is usually what helps guide us through the hoards of people milling around the other food stands.
Despite the chicken being slow cooked and looking kinda weak, it is super juicy and the meat is fall-off-the-bone tender.
As we grew older and wiser (knowing that it was not normal for a gym mat to be tied at the corners of the Wild Mouse coaster frame), we did less gaming and more eating. Some say that fairs are not the best place for dinner because the food is overly priced and it is “oh so unsanitary!” I, on the other hand, could care less that it may not be 5 star cuisines because I absolutely love the variety. Only once a year, can I have Dole ice cream and a poutine as an appetizer, Henry’s BBQ chicken and chilli fries as the main course, Wiggle chips as dessert, and Wild Bill’s perogies as an after dinner snack.
Now, don’t think we are all about eating. Dole Cones and mini donuts in hand, we would always make time to watch the ever so cute Super Dog Show and head over to the Marketplace for miscellaneous household items (any one need a Sweepa?).
As our bellies roll out of the park, our hands clutching a bag of those mini donuts, and ears hearing the ever familiar never changing “win a house, win a car!” sales person, I think to myself how nice it is that we have continued on with this tradition even though he is no longer here.