An exquisite dinner

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A meal, normally – at least most I have been familiar with – do not last more than 30 minutes, with the first 20 probably trying to call everyone to the table and then messing about with plates and cutlery, etc., then 10 minutes to wolf it down and then back to whatever we were individually doing again.

I suspect that this is the same story for a lot of people, that’s why when I first heard from a French friend that every Sunday his family gather in their kitchen and start cooking from around 10 or 11am and then start eating around noon and that the meal actually habitually extends to 5 or 6pm I was skeptical to start with, but then the more we chatted that skepticism turned to incredulity; “How much can these people eat?” and another more urgent question was “What the hell do they talk about for all of that time, and they are family!”

That was a few years ago, Daniel Esperanza has since gone back to Paris and we did cross paths at exhibitions once or twice. He probably does not remember that conversation but I do, as it stuck in my mind since. I continued to have hurried meals, with probably the longest at the table being our traditional Eid and Christmas dinners – those extend to about an hour, max.

Last night, Frances and I approximated Daniel’s experience and we both rather enjoyed it.

Chaîne des Rôtisseurs logo

We were fortunate enough to be invited to a special dinner by our friend Ian Fisher (yes, the one and only!) to the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs function which this time was held at the Diplomat’s Kontiki restaurant. The chefs have excelled in creating a Pacific Extravaganza consisting of eight courses for us to enjoy which in itself was a wonderful journey through which we savored the culinary delights of the region.

The food was good of course as was its presentation; however, what made that a much better experience was the people, the conversations, the new friends all of which contributed greatly to a fantastic atmosphere and made time fly. Four hours of chatting and eating felt like not more than 30 minutes!

Now I know what Daniel was talking about and I believe him. I look forward to recreating this experience at home and abroad often. The experience taught me that food was not just for eating; it also serves as a catalyst for building and maintaining good relationships. That cannot happen in a hurry.

Frances and I wish to thank Ian and Rosemary for their hospitality and hope that we can return the favour one day.

  • Simon Columbus
    22 June 2007

    The absolutely worst thing is: to eat and not to talk. Four hours are a long time, but a dinner with friends should at least last one or two hours. And I can sit along with my family for this time as well… especially if I cooked myself.

  • Iris
    22 June 2007

    Usually our Sunday lunches last for at least 3 hours, only topped by the lunches my uncle in germany offers. He starts cooking at 7 a.m. so that everybody can gather around the table at noon or 1 p.m. 5 courses are not unusal and as he took several courses even with Chef Bocuse himself I must say they are the most longed for occations when I make it to see the family in Europe.

  • mashtan
    22 June 2007

    When I grew up Sunday lunch started after church at noon and went all afternoon until it was time to eat again. Then after eating at 6PM leftovers or something simple, people would eventually go home.

    There was pudding in between and the little children would disappear for a few hours but what remained was a “catchup” on weeks events.

    Even though I live away now from my family and only have two children I try and make the Sunday meal (or Friday when in Bah) an event.

    When you take time to set a lovely table with flowers and nice things it creates an atmosphere where you’d like to sit for hours.

    Some families make sports the centers of their lives, we make food as we enjoy food too much!!!

    It’s a nice vehicle for family and friend cohesiveness.

    Blessings, Mashtan

  • Ibn
    22 June 2007

    Sunday brunches with my family involve a lot of people, so usually there is a lot of talking hapenning, and with me and the cousins, it usually revolves around us making fun of each other for over 2 hours! 🙂

    The discussions will be catch up on the weekday stuff, hows work, hows family, blah blah, “oh my god something funny happened to me the other day blah blah blah”. Then of course someone from the older generations start talking politics, and slowly slowly you notice all the females start to trickle away and do cleaning, leaves all the males sitting around talking/discussing/argueing politics over tea!


  • Barry
    22 June 2007

    We have few people in my family (my parents are only children so no aunts, uncles, or cousins for my brothers and I), and our meals tended to be a couple of hours. With me, mom, and dad, meals are short because we don’t have a lot to talk about (we’re not super talkative).

    With fiends, a dinner party can last several hours, even after the meal is gone, fueled by alcohol. We’ve had some hilaious times together.

    With fellow Filipinos, eating lasts through the night because it’s usually served family style and everyone sort of gets small plates and goes back and forth eating while talking with each other and enjoying the company.

  • mahmood
    22 June 2007

    Well that’s why I love doing BBQs or dinner parties. We usually go at it for at least 5 or 6 hours and it’s a lot of fun!

    I should have more of those I think, especially after the summer.

  • Jay Jerome
    22 June 2007

    Once a year we attend a multi-course Beverage-Tasting-Dinner (we alternate who hosts it) featuring a specialized liquor or wine: last time it was Mexican Tequila, the previous time French wine, time before that Scotch Whiskey, and so on.

    Each guest (or pair if husband/wife or couple) brings a high-quality bottle from the theme category, and also brings one course of the meal to go with it (Mexican food with the tequila; French food with the wine, etc). Usually that translates to eight or ten courses, from appetizers to salad to multiple entrees to desert.

    Typically the dinner lasts four or five hours – and to survive it without slipping off your chair in an alcoholic puddle, most guests only drink two or three ‘fingers’ of each sample (measured horizontally, not vertically). At the end of the meal we vote on the best brand, and whoever wins gets the dubious distinction of choosing the next beverage category. This year’s best Tequila was Cabo Wabo (it tastes much better then it sounds) – and for the next dinner (in three months) the winner chose German Beer – which means I better buy a larger belt with two extra loops.

  • Iris
    23 June 2007

    Jay, living in Mexico this brand of tequila is absolutely unknown to me (and I have a friend working at Tequila Cuervo and my boyfriend is from Guadalajara (20km from the town Tequila).

    The best tequila you can get is Siete Leguas.

    And when it comes to German beer I would be happy to assist you with some insight (I sell the Munich brand PAULANER which is sponsor of the famed bayern Munich soccer team).

  • Jay Jerome
    23 June 2007

    try THIS for more info about Cabo Wabo

    And thanks for the info on Paulaner (I think I may have had their Hefe-Weisen) and for suggesting Siete Leguas — which is an excellent tequila (it was bottled and sold here in California under the Patron brand name — though I believe they parted company about 5 years ago).

    All this talk about booze is going to convince the non-drinking posters here on Mahmood’s site that we’re decadent Western drunkards, but there’s nothing more relaxing after a stressful day then a sipping good quality tequila–

  • Ash
    23 June 2007

    The best meal experience of my life was a day spent with Italian friends and their extensive family on their farm in Tuscany. The food was served outside, on several trestle tables in an orchard in the midst of that lush Tuscan countryside, around 30 people eating, talking, milling around, coming back and forth to the table. “Lunch” took up the whole afternoon and was glorious (Italian food beats French cuisine hands down, in my opinion).

    Unfortunately, in my ordinary life I can’t replicate the experience anywhere near adequately but occasionally we manage a pale imitation of it.

  • Iris
    23 June 2007

    Jay, probably it’s a special botteling for a private owner as there are only 26 distilleries in Tequila and they make some under your name if you like.
    When it comes to Paulaner try Salvator, a heavy beer made for the fasting season. As you might know, beer in Bavaria is not considered alcohol but nourishment.

    To improve our image: I am not drinking liquor very often and right now nothing at all – with the exception of an occasional glass of red wine to an extended lunch.

  • Vagabondblogger
    24 June 2007

    Thanksgiving is a total – all day event at our household, and when we have guests it’s an all night event too. Whenever the whole family is all at the house, at the same time, we generally have dinners that last a while – kids helping chop, roll, or just sitting around arguing about politics. Sometimes it goes on so long, the dishes linger in the sink until morning.

  • Iris
    24 June 2007

    ➡ Just as a literary tip:
    Peter Mayle’s novels and shortstories/anecdotes from Provence are always a culinary joy.

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