I don’t have a television in my flat and I don’t have a fireplace. And because I don’t have either of these focal points, my centre points are my tables – my kitchen table and my dining room table. Around these two pieces of furniture (one a modern glass/chrome construction, the other a 1920s art deco piece), the world has been set to rights on numerous occasions. Conversations have been parsed and analysed. Lives have been rebuilt. Attitudes readjusted. Perspectives changed.
One of the great joys in my life is food, and it shows 🙂 I find cooking therapeutic. I cook every day, even if it’s just for me. I make an effort not to eat on the run but to sit and enjoy. It’s relaxing. It grounds me. I’m even learning to eat more slowly. To savour. To pay more attention and be in the moment. I don’t always manage the recommended 25 chews per mouthful but trying has become a new form of meditation.
Way back in the 1980s, when the fondue craze hit Ireland, I was there. I loved the communal cooking. Sitting around a table and trying this and that, all the while chatting and debating and even at times arguing to a backdrop of tantalising smells.
I’m coming in on the end of the raclette craze, having just discovered the concept while in Zurich late last year – but better late than never. Raclette is a semi-hard cheese made on both sides of the French/Swiss Alps. Individual pans sit underneath a grill where you can grill to your hearts content whatever combination of cheese and vegetables you like. The plate above is reserved for larger meats and vegetables. All the host has to do is supply the raw ingredients and then everyone else does the work.
This evening was my first raclette dinner, prompted by the cheese I’d stocked up on at Christmas nearing its use-by date. I hustled up five friends who were willing to join the experiment. My instruction book helpfully came in Dutch, Hungarian, Italian, and Slovenian so it was trial by picture – a little like looking at the picture on a jigsaw box and having some vague notion of how the finished product was supposed to look.
They came. They saw. We ate. And the world was set to rights…again. Around the table sat America, Australia, England, Hungary, and Ireland. I wonder how successful international negotiations would be if they were held around a dinner table.
This week, with the sounds of the Mediterranean still rattling around my head, I am grateful that I have friends who will come sit around my table and freely share their thoughts and opinions on everything from Ireland’s legendary performance against Wales yesterday to the merits (?) of the annual February 11th commemorative walk of the 700 in Budapest. They come with questions and leave with answers (or more questions!). That’s one of the joys of being an expat in a city that has so much to offer. The variety of backgrounds and the diversity of cultures that meet and form lasting friendships make eating together much more than simply fun – it’s also an education.