Sobremesa: Upon the table

By Axel Brave

Most take sharing food for granted. For starters, it’s hard to value something one must do daily. It’s also hard to value something which you repeat as a habit throughout your life. The effect of performing mindless acts ultimately minimizes the value we feel in the little things we do everyday. However, I want to address the act of not only eating but of sharing a meal with others, the beautiful and intriguing energy it exudes from us and to those around us.

Consider the concept of Sobremesa (Soh-breh-meh-sah), which directly translates to “upon the table.” This term is known throughout Latin-based countries in Europe and South America. It refers to the extra time after the entree, spent continuing a good conversation with the people you’re sharing the meal with. Semantics aside, and for the purpose of this article, what sobremesa means to me is the exact same definition as above, but without this silly concept of it being after the entree. This is because our conversations, arguments, laughter, even bullshitting, shooting the breeze, debates, and discussions all begin as soon as the guests walk through the door and we exchange kisses. As we sit down around the table filling wine glasses and whipping up classic cocktails, sobremesa beings.

Throughout a meal we gather closer and closer: physically, mentally, and spiritually. Always readjusting our seats for a proper or comfortable appearance, depending on who the table is being shared with. Sometimes chairs are pulled closer because of the interest of the conversation. Other times the chair ends up a couple feet away from the table to comfortably throw one leg over the other and just listen. All the while easing into the space with those around us, as we fill stomachs with solids, fluids, and later, gases.

This phenomenon, in my humble opinion, is the dissolving of our guards and the embrace of our vulnerability. The main contributing factor is the food that is being served to the people. As I’m sharing this with the readers, let’s set aside the training I’ve had entertaining guests and making what many have called good food. When you invite people to your table and share a meal with them, that you cooked or not, it definitely involves intimacy. As mentioned above, the phenomenon is that people become more vulnerable around food. It could possibly be because of mothers having to feed children or first sharing meals with your family or community as a young child. But that’s another topic for another communion. As that happens, people can communicate more honestly. And with more honesty, comes more thoughtfulness.

I noticed this old-as-time phenomenon, or Sobremesa, when I was extremely young. It was easy to point out. As a family, we’d occasionally share breakfasts together, lunches on the weekend, and dinners almost every night. However, the frequency of these shared meals didn’t point it out to me. It was the fact that our dinners lasted 2+ hours. Setting the table properly, having multiple dishes, and having to wash plates made it even longer. As a child, time is a hard-to-grasp concept. It either goes too slow or too fast. In this case, sitting around the table hearing the “adults” talk made it seem like an eternity. I didn’t understand how people could have such a great time sitting down and talking. However, now I pretty much embody this philosophy, both professionally and spiritually, everyday. It is something I enjoy, not to mention am.

Phoyo by Ana Guerrero

As an Argentinian-American, our one-a-week church day is either Saturday or Sunday while hosting an Asado. It is our ceremony–our religion. Asado means a grill out over open flames, including all sorts of premium cuts of meat and plenty of seasonal vegetables. For brevity, I won’t include the extensive list of what can be grilled over an open-fire. I want to just share the style of get-togethers we create to spend quality time with one another. Having a roaring yet controlled fire that cooks the food we prepared with recipes we’ve passed along to those we care about allows for magic to happen. People can connect and relate to each other. People begin to feel welcome to our family as we break bread with one another. This invitation allows for people to be comfortable with each other and be more intimate. Naturally, conversations occur because everyone is comfortable, and fed. This is what I call Sobremesa.

My admiration for Sobremesa has led me to start a food brand that evokes this feeling of enjoying company of one another around shared meals. The only way I know how to do this is through what my family has taught me, which translates to my products. These family recipes are now replicated into jars and always at the center of my feeding extravaganzas. I see this bringing people closer; while grabbing seconds and spilling wine glasses and bursting out many laughs. Most importantly, I get to live this experience over and over again with every meal, finding deep comfort in the giving. The vulnerability I receive from people, the knowledge I gather, and the memories I create is something that I hold close to my heart.

As the world continues to grow and allow for me to share more of these experiences with old and new faces, I’m hopeful that more people will be able to participate in Sobremesa. As Latin roots spread across the world and cultures begin to enfuse with one another, I envision people will want to spend more quality time with those dynamic loved ones around them. May your next meal be the vehicle for interconnectedness to flourish.