Sunday, 7 August 2011

Three Meals

The Dinner Table
Henri Matisse - 1896/7 

This has been an extraordinarily well-fed few days; there has been expensive restaurant food, free food, and home-cooked food, always in good company.

Although we both enjoy good food, we are by no means greedy eaters, but during the second half of the week the focus on food has been marked. Only the restaurant meal was planned; eight of us went to The Checkers at Montgomery over the border in Powys, once a humble coaching inn and pub, now a restaurant serving classic French food.

A mini-bus taxi had been booked for us; when you get a group of civilised and dignified adults together, all of them looking forward to a pleasant evening,  and take them on a charabanc outing, no matter how serious they normally are, several layers of restraint melt in the warm feelings of friendship and anticipation. Being driven by a professional, everybody enjoyed their drink; my table neighbour who speaks only English and a few words of Spanish, suddenly became fluent in French, which caused the young man training to become a silver service waiter to giggle helplessly. In spite of a generous supply of wine nobody drank too much, but everybody talked too much. Whenever we get together we talk about music, books, history, and travel; although we know each other's tastes and preferences, we still find plenty to add.

There must still be money around, even in these straitened times. The restaurant was full and therefore very noisy. I'd have hated to be at a table for two.

The free meal, i.e. dinner at friends's house was different, and a lot quieter, but equally enjoyable. I was introduced to a South American dish,
moqueca de peixe; for those of you who are as
ignorant in such matters as I am, it's a fish stew
with vegetables, and very tasty indeed.
Our friends had very carefully excluded all dairy
produce from the menu, which allowed me to eat heartily
and without worrying about after effects.

We were six at table, professionally a similar mix as before, but with totally different topics of conversation. We talked about Africa and the need for education as well as assistance. We talked about the destruction of the environment which is making such catastrophes as the one happening in the Horn of Africa at the moment ever  more likely. One of our number is a journalist with a particular interest in Latin America; she had stories to tell about the continuing destruction of the rain forest which made the outlook for our planet appear most unhealthy.

There is something almost perverse about the white, professional middle class sitting at table, eating and drinking splendidly, discussing the ills of the world and high-handedly solving the problems of poorer nations, so many of which we have caused in the past, and are still causing today. Think about it!

Today we were at home, joined by friends for a somewhat simpler, but still good, Sunday luncheon. We had melon and parma ham, guinea fowl and chocolate and pear upside-down tart, dishes out of my standard repertoire and therefore presenting no difficulties. We could sit back and gossip with our guests.
The conversation was as relaxed as the meal.

It has been a rather hectic week altogether and I'm looking forward to having beans on toast in front of the TV, with my feet up on a cushion.


  1. Each of these meals sound interesting and fun, each offering a different perspective. What an intriguing cross section of topics and table fare. Sounds good, on all counts.

    Having said that, I want to say that my thoughts have been quite similar. I sit in relative comfort while people are starving and millions homeless. It's hard to talk of just the cheeriness and hard to not talk of the challenges when the world is struggling. But perhaps awareness and cheeriness is exactly what the world needs. I'm glad you did your part. On both counts. Truly.

  2. Gathering for meals provides such a strong sense of community regardless of what class you are a member of. Nowadays I am a ways from middle class but still enjoy a nice meal with friends and family talking about the sadness of others and how to fix the world.
    Looking at the "Dinner Table" I found myself thinking I would prefer to be the one organizing the dinner and deciding on flowers, menu, etc. rather than one sitting down for the meal. What a soothing scene Matisse has painted here.

  3. Hello:
    Good food and good company what a perfect combination. And, clearly, a good time has been enjoyed by one and all from your account.

    But, as you say, how difficult it is to talk of how the world can be put to rights from such a position of plenty and privilege. Nevertheless, there is something totally wholesome about preparing a meal for others and taking time to savour it and the friendship of companions round the table.

    With all this gallivanting about, no wonder you need to put your feet up!

  4. From the wonderful image from Matisse to the equally wonderful image of you with beans and toast on your lap and a TV remote in your hand - that's our Friko!
    There's nothing I like better than good food and good conversation. We were out for the first time in months last weekend and sat at a table not unlike the first one you described. The glow on faces, the sound of the silver and china, the smells of the food, the laughter - when I am that lucky I do not feel at all apologetic, however I am aware of an obligation to enjoy and appreciate!

  5. Hi Friko .. all three meals - sound delicious with exceptional company - stimulating, informed and educative people .. lucky you .. and thanks for sharing .. Hilary

  6. would love to have been in on the convo on know, that it is on the minds even while eating is an important act...and remembering their need while we have much all the more...the fish stew sounds tasty as well...

  7. Your dinner-table conversation reflects a sad irony...when will we learn, and in the meantime, will we, can we help?
    You are a wonderful food writer. That fish stew sounds like a bit of heaven...

  8. The home cooked meals sound particulalry inviting. Despite the irony, it sounds like you had a lovely time.

  9. Mmm ... that fish stew sounded good.

    And three meals - much better than just the one, or even the two! That's what I always say ...

    Word veri: gruellys (honest!)

  10. Dear me. I suppose beans on toast -is more British these days than guinea fowl, but since tinned (so called) baked beans is probably my least favourite food in the world I am am happy to cast it off shouting "foreign muck"! No matter that no one ever offered me beans on toast, let alone beans for breakfast, in the Home of Heinz.

  11. What joy for body, mind and soul !

  12. All your meals sound wonderful... and, yes, I see the irony. It's always there, isn't it?

  13. Oops, take it back. Beans on toast sounds rather revolting. But I've never tried it so what do I know?

  14. Friko, first of all, I really do like that painting, and admit I would not have pinned it as Matisse, maybe because I always associate Bonnard with food and tables and differing vantage points.

    So, this leads me to admire your differing points of view for each of these delightful gatherings. My favorite of the the three, of course, was the one at your home. Had I been fortunate enough to sit round that table, I assure you that I would have been more than happy to help with the clearing and cleaning up afterwards.


  15. This is a beautiful early Matisse.
    We're leaving Tuesday for Russia, and I don't go without a qualm. The African drought, as well as many crises around the world, do make me wonder what I should be doing, and whether a cruise from St. Petersburg to Moscow is not ridiculously frivolous, no matter that we got the last cabin on the ship at a bargain price.
    As a couple, we contribute to carefully chosen charities which we feel have the most practical effect on world problems, and occasionally I make an emotional donation on the spur of the moment, using my own money from my pensions.
    It is hard to know what is right, what is expected, what will help, what will go straight into the pockets of the charity administrators.
    It's a tough call, but talking about it is a start.
    — K

    Kay, Alberta, Canada
    An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel

  16. All sounded delightfulful, even your feet-up-on-the-cushion meal!by the way, this post sowed up on my reader ages ago, but no matter what I tried, I only just now got to it. The link kept going to the previous post.

  17. My dear Friko, this inspires outright jealousy. Precious little I love more than fine food and wine with stimulating conversation-- a chance to discuss all of the good books I've been reading with minds I esteem! I just took a breath and let it out in a sigh.

    Loved this post.

  18. lovely interlude!

    Aloha from Waikiki;

    Comfort Spiral
    > < } } ( ° >

  19. Hello Friko

    What better forum for exchanging ideas and perhaps even spawning new projects than across the dinner table. This is the expectation that hangs in the air when I look at the Matisse.

    We have now shared a little in your pleasures at table and are now also prompted to share in the debates that emerged. Who knows where this may lead.


  20. In tune with your honest feeling conveyed in the writing, I nodded, smiled, or grinned(7th paragraph). I like eating out with a good company, and now I’m attracted by your Sunday Luncheon. I think I know how you felt at the end of the week, I’d be the same, not beans on toast but “rice and toppings in green tea”. You made me hungry, Friko, .... time for me to cook for dinner.


  21. I love food, growing it, cooking it and eating it and I love sharing it with good friends. I hope I am aware of how lucky I am when I do all this things.

  22. Your descriptions of the meals made my mouth water. Your descriptions of the conversations made my heart long for home. And the irony you reflected with these words resounded in several of the comments on your posting, Friko. Oh, if only you were a politician in the US--someone who sees the irony behind so much of what we do. We cause problems and then we endlessly debate about how to solve them, while continuing to eat our five-course meals. Thank you for inviting us to think about it.

  23. Grand meals with good friends are grand but there is something to be said for beans on toast and feet up.

  24. It sounds like a wonderful week. Being aware of the disasters in the world does not dictate that we should wear sackcloth and ashes. Being unaware just might!
    Beans on toast - lovely!

  25. Sounds like a great week with friends and food. :)

  26. Good food, friends and time to enjoy both are true treasures. Your three occasions sound perfect and each unique.

    With all the troubles of the world's economy it is interesting that a good restaurant will always be filled of an evening...people still have to eat - why not make it pleasurable!

    A delightful post!!

  27. The professional middle class discussing how the burdens & benefits of society are distributed(or how they should be) ~at least all of you care. Some groups are discussing botox & high thread count sheets.

    Beans & toast after your epicurean indulgences~perfect balance. ~Mary

  28. I know what you mean about the dichotomy of stuffing one's face with delicacies while discussing the poverty of another nation...

    I have lately been occupied with reading blogs by Cuban authors, who are trying to raise families and have a life while being squeezed dry and flat by communism... and simultaneously planning a vacation for my husband and I in a gorgeous B&B in Connecticut.

    While both things exist in the world, it seems somehow profane that we can realize them both at the same time.

  29. To think that "melon and parma ham, guinea fowl and chocolate and pear upside-down tart" are in your standard repertoire. Beans on toast just about makes mine . . .

    I loved your observations of the variations on the theme of sharing meals. More evidence that you lead an engaged and engaging life.


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