Thursday, 5 February 2009

A Shared Table

This past week I have been in Las Vegas (of all places) at a conference (that is a story for another day). We were scheduled to fly home straight after the conference but due to mechanical problems, we missed our connecting flight and this meant we spent an unexpected day in San Francisco. It was interesting to watch the reaction of other passengers to this news. I decided to treat it as a bonus and to make the most of having a day to explore San Francisco. It would be fair to say that many others weren’t quite as excited as I was – but we still all spent that extra day in San Francisco.

What I wanted to share with you was an experience I enjoyed in an extraordinary eatery that I stumbled across in the very popular and trendy “Ferry Building” down on the harbour-side (

Being winter over there I was drawn to this little café and larder – I’m not sure whether it was from the food I saw being served or the actual warmth of the place. However despite these it had a special energy and I’m certain that this is what attracted me. As I stepped inside I felt an air of calm and peace. The staff seemed to be genuinely pleased to serve us (as opposed to the more contrived service we experienced in Las Vegas).

I was attracted to a large wooden shared table for twelve just inside the door. It was laid simply with vases of fresh flowers. “Boulette”, the long-haired beloved, resident sheep-dog lay asleep under the table and as a bonus he was happy to be used as a big woolly rug to keep our feet warm. The kitchen stoves and ovens were close to the table – large benches and a huge canopy housing the copper pots and utensils added to the homely feel. It reminded me of a large country kitchen.

What was so remarkable was that there were five chefs quietly, calmly and efficiently preparing our meals in close proximity to our table. Each chef was fully focused on their work and I could almost feel their warm, positive energy transfer to the food they were preparing. This kitchen was quiet and calm (almost soulful) – nothing like the loud, raucous and hostile kitchens made famous by some TV chefs. The food on offer was seasonal and sourced from local farmers – a relationship respected and developed over the past 30 years between the farmers and the owner of the café.

The café embraced “slow food” principles. Slow Food is an international organisation made up of convivia (regional or local groups). Members of each convivium are people who are interested in food and who value local, seasonal food, prepared traditionally (often by methods passed down through families). For more about the Slow Food movement go to

I am a great believer in food having its own energy and taking on the energy of those who prepare it. If a meal is prepared with love and care, then the food takes on some of that energy and when we eat it we get the benefits. I also think there is magic in a shared table – something that unfortunately in today’s hectic world tends to be reserved only for celebrations like Christmas and birthdays.

My meal was beautiful. I had scrambled eggs (cooked to perfection) on sour dough bread. These were teamed with shaved turnip, radish and pieces of pomegranate. A touch of lemon-infused olive oil was splashed over the top just to balance the flavours. My colleague commented that this was the only meal I had actually finished on the whole trip! And she was right – not only did the food taste amazing but the whole experience was very nurturing.

I believe the attitude the chefs brought to the whole experience was the most important thing. It was obvious to me as I watched them work that they were very focused and nurturing in their attitude to the food they were preparing and that they cared about me as a diner.

This was the quintessential dining experience – one that only comes along occasionally. It was an experience to be relished and remembered.

I hope you get a chance this season to share a leisurely, lovingly cooked meal with friends and family. I hope that you get an opportunity to take on the wonderful energy of those around you and of food that has been thoughtfully prepared. And that you are nourished on all levels – something that cannot be bought but is a most precious gift.

I wish you all a very Happy Christmas and would like to express my heart felt thanks for your support in 2008. I hope your experience at Mammoth is like my experience at Boulettes Larder. We are overwhelmed with your response and support and thank you for spending some time with us this year.

Merry Christmas and we hope you have a Wonderful and Healthy 2009.


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