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Taste Scene

Michael Devlin

Sharing is caring

One of my favourite parts of cooking is the eventual enjoyment of the meal. At first glance, that little statement might sound a tad trite and possibly even moronic but let me put it like this…

Whilst I too will enjoy something, a casserole or a pasta dish or a home-made flatbread filled with seasoned loveliness, it is the appreciation of other people appreciating the same food which really gives me joy.

I can think of occasions when, watching a friend or family member eating something I’ve lovingly concocted, all it takes is a look for me to know I’ve hit the jackpot. Exclamations of awe, happiness, surprise, delight, relish – these verbal signposts are always most satisfying but sometimes a mere a widening of the eyes, a slight shift in eye-brow height, lips curling into a smile for me to realise my plan has borne the tastiest of fruit. It was therefore most gratifying to have a friend visit last weekend and for said friend to savour everything I prepared.

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Steve usually visits twice a year and as such, we celebrate those biannual events with special food and, in his case especially, special wine. Steve, you see, lives in Kuwait and it being a dry country, wine is at a premium, which is to say, non-existent. Ergo, when my good friend arrives, usually on a Friday evening, the first thing I hand him is a glass of pinot noir, already chilled to his preference.

Last Friday night, after Steve slacked his soul’s thirst by way of the vino, we casually dined on steak chilli nachos topped with spring onions, guacamole and crema. This was shared among me, Steve, Herself and the first born in the house and we had a rollicking time listening to my old friend’s latest adventures in the Middle East. Kuwait is quite the place, I can tell you – or so I have it from Steve.

He didn’t say much when it came to the first few bites of the chilli steak nachos though, but I knew I was onto a winner when he caught my eye, nodded twice and then winked, all in one fluid motion. He then whistled slightly with an intake of breath. I was in home-made nacho appreciation heaven!

This revelry lasted long into the night and as is the way with such events, time itself seemed altered and in fact appeared to advance much faster than its habitual tick-tock pace. Suffice it to say, our reunion resulted in not one, not two, but three bottles of pinot noir being opened.

The following day and on Steve’s’ request we ventured out for lunch and subsequently enjoyed eatables in a local cafe. I had big plans for the evening’s menu so I made sure we were having lunch good and early. My plans? I had intended on giving Steve options, as he was the one who had gone to such lengths to visit. He could either have chicken enchiladas, shepherd’s pie (this is one of his favourites) or home-made pizza but in the end he opted for none of the above.

“Let’s do a big mezze platter so we can pick at things as the evening goes by,” he suggested. So that’s what we did.

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To that end, we hunter-gathered some pork paté, a French baguette, Santini tomatoes, chorizo, sun-dried tomatoes, compté cheese, hummous, tzatziki, prawns, salami and that staple of crunchy Irish hors d’oeuvres, crisps – of which we purloined two or perhaps three varieties. I also knocked up a flatbread for the hummous and as night fell and time’s habitual tick-tock pace increased, we quickly set about another bottle of pinot and reminisced about different times in different cities, when responsibilities were somehow less.

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The mezze platter being something we could ideally all enjoy, Herself suggested that the little humans might like to add something to the plates. Sarah, as was her wont, decided on Prawn Cocktail Pringles and – you can see these if you look closely at the picture – Anna sneaked in with a bag of Party Rings.

I actually tried one of these and I can confirm it is not complimented by chilled pinot noir.

The reason I mention our epic mezze platter is because I was surprised by its effectiveness. Everyone had input and therefore everyone had something they could enjoy. Personally, I really enjoyed a hunk of the bread slathered with pate and then topped with some sun-dried tomatoes. In this instance the pinot wasn’t found wanting.

More than the enchiladas or the shepherd’s pie could achieve, the platter also initiated more of a party atmosphere and with the tunes cranked up beyond what is normally acceptable, voices were raised, board games were unearthed and there was even dancing – DANCING!

But of all the elements to the mezze I was most pleased by Steve’s reaction to the flatbread, which he had watched me prepare minutes before it reached his mouth. Rather than eulogise on its merits,

Steve merely widened his eyes, smiled and nodded once more. I replied in kind.

Sharing is caring, after all. Even when it comes to reactions.

I knew I was onto a winner when he caught my eye, nodded twice and then winked, all in one fluid motion. He then whistled slightly with an intake of breath. I was in home-made nacho appreciation heaven!

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