Saturday, January 12, 2008

Two for lunch

Last week I had a lovely experience; I met a friend for lunch and we ordered food and talked about it. The venue came with expectations, which were, in the end, not entirely fulfilled by the kitchen, but the experience far outweighed the result. The conversation started with the bread. I had brought some olive oil as a gift and we wanted to taste it, so we asked for bread. The place had modest pretensions, but pretensions all the same, and we were disappointed when the bread was white and soft and floppy. As blotting paper for the very excellent oil it did the job, but barely. And yet if the bread had been half decent we would have gladly paid extra for it. Why don’t restaurants understand that it is probably the first solid thing that you taste, and it sets the tone for everything else. It’s not hard – you can leave it to do its own thing overnight and bake it first thing in the morning. People would come for the bread alone.

Anyway, we then ordered three starters for the two of us, for a test. My friend was considering booking the place for a foodie event and we wanted to see what they could do. We tasted, and considered, and put our heads on one side, and had another forkful.

“Not enough seasoning”
“Too bland”
“Too smoky”
“Don’t like the spices”
“Love the spices”
“Delicious dressing”
“Is this supposed to be cold?”
“Great lentils”
And then on to the treacle tart…
“Do you think there is marmalade in this?”
“I always put some Seville oranges into mine”

And then the coffee...

"How are they making it?"
"They've got a Gaggia machine"

All in all the repast was adequate, but not outstanding. But we spent two hours talking about it non-stop, with just a few side trips to discuss cheese and how to tell the ripeness of sloes. Two hours! Two hours of serious and considered discussion. I don’t think anyone overheard us, but we were lost in a private passion.

I recently found myself in the pub next to a group who had come in together from something they had all been doing. It turned out to be bell-ringing. They laughed and joked and talked about peals and rings and changes and Plain Bob Minors or some such. It was a joy!

Why do these snippets amaze and delight and yet the braying of city types is such an aggravation. I suppose, or at least I like to think, it’s because the passion is real, a private world of total fulfilment.

I’m not sure that the place will get my friend’s event, but it was huge fun!

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