I live alone and have spent a lot of time in my kitchen since we stopped seeing live shows. I’ve fermented kimchi, made macadamia nut vegan desserts, and done more things with lentils than I thought possible. But I haven’t made dumplings.
Ania Reynolds and Alisa Tanaka-King wanted to make us all dumplings for Melbourne Fringe. They wanted a night of feasting, stories and song about the type of adorable deliciousness that’s found in almost every culture, be they momo, tamale, pastizzi or raviolo.
When the festival went online, Dumplings Darling: Love Without Borders became a recorded audio taster of what their extravagant show will be, one day. But it begins with a posted black envelope (or emailed pdf) with recipe cards featuring hand-drawn pictures. These are “secret dumpling whispers” named for the holder of the recipe. Steamed, fried, baked, boiled. All look like pure-yum wrapped in dough.
The audio invites you to put on your headphones and head to your kitchen. Rolling dough and chopping chives while listening to songs inspired by eating dumplings from all over the world certainly sounds like fun. All the while the show’s audio supplies you with delicious stories that come back to a question: is there a situation that cannot be made better with dumplings?
Think about it. Nourishment, kindness, love, generosity. Is it even possible to feel bad when you’re eating dumplings that have been made for you?
Except that I didn’t make the dumplings – I didn’t have the right types of flour. And I didn’t make dumplings because dumplings are made to share. What’s the point of making something so delicate and delicious if it’s just you?
So, I did something I’d never really done before lockdown. I had an $8.99 packet of frozen vegetable gyoza in my freezer. As I listened to Dumplings Darling's fairy tale about the magic ritual of a dumpling soup, I steamed them and ate them with a spork. And I felt better.
The audio version of Dumplings Darlings: Love Without Borders isn’t as satisfying as the potential live show, but it’s made with the kind of care that would buy all the required flours and hand-pleat the dumplings to perfection.
We can’t have the live festival experiences we want right now, but that doesn’t mean we should dismiss the recorded and online ones. I spend a lot of time thinking about when I can eat a sour plum pierogi or a steamed momo again. And when I can make food for friends again. And when I can go to a show. In the meantime, frozen dumplings are pretty good, and the online shows made by our indie artists give us a delicious taste of what’s still to come.