I caught up with a friend the other night and she was telling me about this Arabic sweet place that was parked in our local area for a few days, so after very minimal deliberation – we don’t need much prompting to eat – we made plans to go there on the Sunday night and have our coffee catch up there. I called another friend on the Saturday afternoon in my excitement and told her all about the food and arranged for her to come with us as well, so the date night was all set. Come Saturday evening (early evening), I found myself with some time to kill, so I decided to go past and see what place looked like and get an idea of what the fuss was all about. I pulled up to the place, killed the engine and sat in the car trying to decide whether to get out or not. My hesitation to go in stemmed from not being totally comfortable going in alone because it was a Saturday evening, and Saturday evening is usually reserved for couples or families or groups of people dining out together, not a lass on her own. As a writer, I tend to spend a lot time in cafes alone because writing is a very solitary thing, and being alone lets me observe my surrounds for inspiration (this is how Café Stories started!), however I don’t always frequent cafes on a Saturday night alone, other than the McDonalds McCafe (and let’s be real, McCafe’s aren’t actually a proper ‘café’). A single female at a café or restaurant on a Saturday night, alone, isn’t something you see often, and I really wasn’t sure how comfortable I was to be that person on their own amongst a crowd of groups and couples.
After sitting in the car and deliberating for about 10 minutes, the thought of food won out over my discomfort because as most people know, food makes me happy. In my life, 2 things bring me immense joy; Jesus and food (sorry FamBam, but a Nutella Scroll brings joy that you just can’t provide!), so the thought of trying new food, especially something sweet, was too good to pass up. After straightening my spine a bit and putting on my brave face, I got out of the car and headed towards the street eatery to try this so-called amazing food. And let me say, I was not disappointed! This place is an Arabic style sweet place called Knafeh and they make fresh to order knafeh, which is this amazing cheese pastry soaked in sweet sugar-based syrup (drool). These guys called the Bearded Bakers run it and they have created a bit of a following thanks to their knafeh and hilarious antics around their cooking counter, which mainly consist of them dancing and singing along to Arabic music and giving their customers nicknames: I got Businesswoman (long story). It’s an experience, to be sure and one I will definitely try again, but back to my story (see how distracted I get with food??). I collected my order and found a spot by myself so I could eat and I found myself smiling to myself – I’m sure that was a sight to see; a lone female smiling like a looney at her food, explains why zi’m still single! – but the environment around me captured me and held me mesmerised.
One of the perks of dining alone is that you can observe things around you without being worried about offending the person with you by ignoring them. And what I observed around me was community. Joy and laughter shared over food while sitting on uncomfortable milk crates around a fire in a cable bin. There were groups of people huddled together, their food in hand, laughing and talking in between mouthfuls of food. There were couples seated closely, sharing a plate of food and talking quietly to each other. There were families seated together, children on laps being fed spoonful’s by their parents, while the adults spoke over their heads. There were groups of teens trying to be cool and not act like they were enjoying their meal, while simultaneously taking photos of their food and uploading it to social media. There was community and friendships and memories being made, all brought on by a little plate of cheese and sugar goodness. The setting was an outdoor area in the midst of an industrial area with milk crates scattered around cable bins that were being used as portable fireplaces. No tables and chairs, just milk crates to sit on and your lap for a table. Doesn’t sound like the most comfortable setting, but you know what? It was amazing! The cold, the uncomfortable seats, the smoke coming out of the barrels and settling in your hair and clothes didn’t bother anyone it wasn’t about that; it was about the coming together and sharing time over a meal. Food brings people together. It breaks barriers. It brings comfort and joy. Most new relationships are formed over food – every date I’ve ever been on involved food and just about every catch up I have with people involves coffee and food. There is something beautiful about sharing a meal with someone, whether it is one person or a group. Now, obviously not all gatherings over a meal are joyful. I’ve personally sat through some very uncomfortable meals with people, but for the most part, sharing food with people brings a sense of joy and unity.
Sitting there, watching everyone else chatting and laughing, I wished for a moment that I wasn’t there alone because I wanted to share that moment, that meal, with people who I love. I wanted to have my people, the besties in my life that I share a meal with often, there with me. I wanted to share this meal with my mum because I knew she would go just as nuts as me over the knafeh. Sitting there, observing everyone else, got my thinking about all the times I’ve laughed and cried over a meal with people. It got me thinking about all the times that memories were made over a meal and barriers had been broken. Times when tears were shed and hearts were opened. Times when truth and vulnerability came to the surface and connections were made. And it’s those moments that are worth more than money can buy. Those moments of communion over food are worth more than rubies because that’s what life is about, spending time with those you love, making memories and sharing laughter and tears. It’s not about wealth or career or position, it’s about love; it’s about fellowship and sharing a part of your heart and soul with others. And what better way to share love and joy than over a delicious meal?