Baked Beans and Burnt Toast by Jacqui Larkin
In Baked Beans and Burnt Toast by Jacqui Larkin we have the theme of identity, expression, change, connection, heritage and memories. Narrated in the first person by Larkin herself it becomes clear to the reader after reading the story that Larkin may be exploring the theme of identity. Larkin though of Chinese origin does not know how to speak Cantonese. Australia is her real home and she is only going to Hong Kong to bury her father’s ashes. It is as though she has made a promise to him. A promise she must keep. Even though she feels lost in Hong Kong. What is also interesting about the story is the plane landing? It is a bumpy and nervous time for Larkin and in some ways mirrors or foreshadows events with Pete. She too gets nervous when she realises that Pete is the same Peter Nugent who bullied and called her names in school.
What is interesting about Pete’s bullying is the fact that he really liked Larkin but was too afraid to tell her. If anything he resorted to using his masculinity in an incorrect manner. However it is important to remember that Pete was still very young at the time. He may not have known how to properly express himself. He is after all only a child at the time. The customs officers also appear to ridicule Larkin because she cannot speak Cantonese. This is an issue that is funny to them. However Larkin has never embraced the Chinese side of her heritage. She believes her identity to be Australian and is happy with this. She also most likely knows she may never return to Hong Kong after burying her father’s ashes. Though she does feel an obligation to her father to go to Hong Kong with his ashes.
There is also a remarkable change in Pete’s character and he could be described as being a round character. No longer is he a bully but he has turned out to be a pleasant young man. He is good with the patrons in the restaurant of the hotel and even goes as far as sourcing a cure for Larkin’s stomach ailment. This is something that Pete did not have to do but nevertheless he went that extra step in order to satisfy a customer. Pete is also an honest character when he tells Larkin of his background. Larkin knows Pete is the same boy who used to bully her but Pete is oblivious to this. All she knew about him was that he disappeared one day from school never to return.
The end of the story is interesting as Larkin is delighted with the serving of baked beans and burnt toast. It is as though her suspicions of Pete are no loner true. At the same time there is sense of forgiveness. No longer does Larkin hold any grudges against Pete. It is as though she has changed completely. No longer carrying the scars of her school days. On what should be s very emotional time for Larkin she finds one ray of light in Pete. Who throughout his adulthood appears to have acted the complete gentleman and is no longer the boy who is afraid to tell a girl that he likes her.