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Eat to the beat
Opinion

Eat to the beat

I wasn't aware of the high regard with which eating is held in these parts and how two o'clock is a revered hour when, whatever you're doing and wherever you are, you must stop for lunch

Friday, 20 October 2023, 16:04

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The young student's mother tilted her head to one side and stared at me with an expression that managed, simultaneously, to convey both puzzlement and pity. She tried to explain again, increasing the decibel level this time as if that might somehow miraculously shed more light on the situation.

"La hora de comer!" (Lunchtime!)

I was, truth be told, still none the wiser and pointed to a clock on the kitchen wall in the hope of further clarification. After a few more exasperated whelps of "lunchtime!" she eventually said "two o'clock" which came as music to my ears, I can tell you. At last, a specific time. She had presumed that any fool would know that lunchtime means about two o'clock.

This was one of my (many) early experiences of cultural misunderstandings when I first arrived in Malaga. Coming from a country where, at school, we would sit down to eat at midday and where, at the weekends, lunch - or 'dinner' as we Northerners proudly call it - could be eaten anywhere between twelve and four and consist of anything from a sandwich made from a banana that had seen better days to a chicken and mushroom Toast Topper slapped on a bit of grilled bread, I wasn't aware of the high regard with which eating is held in these parts and how two o'clock is a revered hour when, whatever you're doing and wherever you are, you must stop for lunch. One time, I even saw a large family unfold a picnic table in an accident and emergency unit and then proceed to lay out upon it the seemingly endless range of culinary delights that they'd brought with them in two cool boxes. I'm not sure what their accident or emergency was but it certainly wasn't an immediate threat of starvation.

There is, of course, something eminently civilised about a culture which appreciates the sanctity of meal times and it's something which is passed on to new generations here from a very early age. The two-year-old boy in a local village bar approached me last week, clutching a fine array of superhero dolls and beaming from ear to ear.

"¿Jugamos?" (Shall we play?)

"Well I'm just about to eat. But we will when I've finished."

He was disappointed but nodded dejectedly and toddled off back to Gotham City.

I suspect if I'd said I was tired or reading or something my reason wouldn't have cut the mustard - but eating? That's non-negotiable and he knew it.

He came back about ten minutes later, saw that I was tucking heartily into my plate of lentils and promptly turned on his heels, admonishing himself under his breath as he left, "No, no not yet. He's still eating." I was indeed - but not for long. Fifteen minutes later, the Hulk and Batman were wreaking havoc on the outdoor terrace.

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