As the the overall economy edges down, patronage of cafés and eating out are going up. Economists point this out and the stats proved that the change in our consuming habits were in equal proportion. You wonder what the connection is. Here, where we live, dress shops are closing down or if not, the owners look forlornly towards the street hoping for customers. The customers however are next door sipping a short black or a macchiato before sauntering off to the charity shops that sell second-hand top brand names at $ 5.50 a pop or $12.50 the max. Money saved is spent sipping coffee or munching on deep fried salt & pepper calamari with fashionable red and greed lettuce leaves and chopped Spanish onion. Happy dogs are tied to the tables forever hopeful of a spare piece of Apfel-kuchen or beer battered squid.
We walk past one such café almost daily with our JRT ‘the incorrigible Milo’. Today, while waiting for the traffic light to turn green, H pointed out a man deeply immersed in his food. The immersed in his food man was sitting directly next to where the cars were driving. The patrons in this café are seated inside as well as on the footpath. The outside patrons are shielded from the sun by white umbrellas. The traffic separated from the diners by heavy concrete barriers and some greenery.
I noticed him, the enthusiastic eater, as well. His jaws were firmly locked on whatever he had partially managed to stow inside his mouth. In between he managed to masticate, eyes manically focussed on his plate. His wife/partner or girlfriend looked on in amazement. Such was his level of concentration.
I was in awe.
“That’s how you eat too”, I was told after we reached the other side of the intersection. “Like an animal”, she added. The walk was taking a nasty turn. Milo sensed it and looked up. He is acutely attuned to our marital squabbling while crossing streets.
I have to admit; my eating habits sometimes include an unnecessary concentration on the plate directly below my chin. H often asks me; “can you look up a bit and converse with me.” “I am your wife.” I then stop eating and rack my brains off in finding something amusing to say. I am overwrought with guilt and that’s not helpful in steering the lunch or dinner into something in a more entertaining direction than just the forking in of mouthfuls of squid or potato wedges.
Our dietary habits are different. I eat as if in an emergency. H has more of a slimming or keeping slim attitude towards food intake. She maintains and remains a svelte figure much admired by many but achieved by few in our age group. My problem has always been putting and keeping weight on, no matter how much I ate, I remained somewhat slim. As a child, but after the war, when food once again reached our tables, I used to skim cream from the bucket filled with milk. In those days milk was delivered by a person called ‘the milkman’. He had a horse and carriage. He would go from door to door selling just milk by the litre. My mum used to shout down the stairs “4 litres today please milkman”. The milkman had a long handled steel scoop which held exactly a litre which he used to fill our green enamelled bucket with.
When the accusation of my animalistic eating habits had calmed and cooled a bit, I offered to have a latte with a ginger and date cake. “We can share the cake”, I added, always considering her keenness in remaining svelte. “Yes, that would be nice”, she smiled happily.
All was well.