After almost three decades since the arrival of my doctor to this sylvan community, the experience of dining in his rural stone home adjacent the nearby Village has accelerated from what was already an esteemed tradition to what is now assured to become a veritable legacy. So skillful is the country doctor at orchestrating an overflowing abundance of gastronomic treasures that he rather resembles a magician producing a massive floral arrangement from a mere top hat, and just as effortlessly. As the assembled guests gather near the pot-bellied stove in the spacious kitchen, nurturing themselves with sips of martinis or wine or Champagne between gobbles of the array of food stuffs crowded upon the central island festive board, the ebullience is manifest. The spirit of gaiety rises and falls with each assertion of contentment by the guests, punctuated by the latest chin-wagging and intelligence upon past or upcoming voyages and other – sometimes unwelcome – adventures. Everyone is immediately at home, a warmth cultivated by the magnanimity of the doctor’s closest family and dearest friends, the rank and file of his household.
The heady society which so often pervades these convocations is not for the pusillanimous! There are at times those who speak no less than four languages; almost all are deeply familiar with quality products and their consumption; a wander into the literary world or current affairs is guaranteed to evoke the depth of knowledge partial to the well-read; and world-wide travel doesn’t begin to describe the breadth of human activity undertaken by the communicants.
Following the ethereal fraternity of the cocktails and extensive hors d’oeuvres, there is a collective retirement to the prolonged dining table where many of the guests have sat so frequently that they needn’t even enquire about where to plop themselves, as though they were regular members of the family. Then follows the studied application to the serious business of gorging fine barbecued meats, an explosion of delicately cooked vegetables, all washed down with an unending stream of wine. And this is yet the beginning for there then inevitably follows at least one dessert (normally a homemade exquisite crumble of fruit and cream) and all one could desire by way of pousse-café.
By the time the hours of absorption have wound down, it is late in the evening. An apologetic retreat is fired up and following the embraces the guests dive back into the black night and the shadows fold upon the erstwhile household of delectation and emotional conference.