There is a particular magic in eating outdoors when one lives in a cold climate and as we did so the other night, one son remarked that it was his first day of summer. It wasn’t even that warm yet and we shivered a bit in our short sleeves and pretended to be warm enough until the waiter thoughtfully set up a heater behind us and made it real.
The patio is an outdoor paradise in good weather. Large picnic tables fill up with locals who persuade themselves unrealistically that it is cheaper to eat out than to cook at home. There is always a mix of generations at the tables the way there was at ours – and it’s easy to invite a workmate and his kids to join in. So we were a grandmother, two sons and their ladies, a male friend of one of the sons, and five children who asked quickly to be excused between courses and found their own world around a fountain and open space where they could run and play tag. For a while the parents cautioned the children to be careful not to fall into the pond but the second round of sangria eased them out of any thought of supervision. They returned occasionally to eat and to collect money to throw into for the fountain. Wishes were plentiful.
Portuguese cuisine is not something that we prepare at home – but celebrating summer makes flaming sausage and soft cheese mandatory. As we move on to main courses, we order separately but find ourselves eating off other plates. We talk of the value of speaking more than one language – even though only one of us does – and of being part of a city with multiple cultures that we can try out for an early evening. The sun goes down. A son picks up his mandolin and heads for a session at an Irish pub in another part of town. His wife and daughter hunt up their helmets, move outside to find their bikes and head for home – but not before we all visit the gumball machine. A small rubber ball gets purchased by a small boy – and lost during the two block walk home and gone for good. But it’s all right. It’s summer.