Imagine this: my wife and I are seated at a cozy family restaurant in Lisbon…recommended for its seafood and service.
The first thing that happens is our elderly waiter frowns and motions for me to sit directly across from my wife, instead of diagonally opposite… probably thinking it’s more romantic. But, the irony is, after many years, we love giving each other the space. Next, we ask for white wine with our fish dinner: our waiter brings us red. This is great service? Yet, it’s okay; we’re bilingual about wines.
Now, before I proceed, I must give you some crucial information: we’re in Portugal; the staff spoke mainly Portuguese; and, salted cod and grilled sardines are national dishes. So, they know a thing or two about preparing and serving fish. Our waiter was simply doing what he thought was best… becoming a truly proud culinary guide.
“A bronze man still can tell stories his own way”
~ Saturday in the Park by Chicago
The meal was delicious; but our waiter wasn’t done… just yet. Noticing we’d finished our meal, he came back to top up our glasses with more red wine, along with another plate of cheese and bread – no charge.
Obviously, he felt we should sit back and enjoy our dinner a bit longer; and, since we’d been in such good hands all night, why fight it? As the late cultural chef, Anthony Bourdain, advised, “Don’t be afraid of random acts of hospitality… be open, without judgement or fear. Walk in their shoes, or at least eat their food. It’s a plus for everybody.”
“Listen children all is not lost… oh no, no!”
Even though we had some fantastic outings – including breathtaking mountaintop winery tours and scenic riverboat cruises – I’ll fondly remember the Portuguese people. Despite being economically depressed – like much of Europe – people care and work hard. They epitomize workers, everywhere, who get things done despite inadequate support. In fact, our critique on ‘TripAdvisor’ indicated the pros: (the staff); and the cons: (the hotel). We think twice before complaining, as it could cost someone their job through no fault of their own.
“Before traveling”, Bourdain said, “I thought the human race, as a whole, could and would turn on itself at any moment. But, I’ve met mostly very nice people doing the best they can under very difficult conditions.”
And, we’ve witness the continuing polarization, fear and intolerance, worldwide, within all economies – fueled by the media and populist politicians – both vying for either our dollar or our vote. Like, CBS Chairman Les Moonves admitted, “It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.”
Yet, locally, I’ve been encouraged by the pride and passion of a semi-retired Yugoslavian/Canadian stonemason. He’d been working on our century farmhouse when he surprised us by constructing brick window basement casements, as a gift to us. They looked great… cementing a wonderful relationship.
“And I’ve been waiting such a long time
For the day… (waiting for us all)”
Bilingual Wines! – pexels creative commons
Guest Author Bio
Fred Parry lives in Southern Ontario. He is a lover of people and a collector of stories, music, wisdom, and grandchildren. His newspaper column, Music in Me, can be found in ‘The New Hamburg Independent’ Metroland Media. His book, ‘The Music In Me’ (2013) Friesen Press is Available from Amazon and Indigo / Chapters.
Blog / Website: www.fredparry.ca