It seems that it was in olden days when upon finishing a delicious meal, nobody left the table. Diners magically remained stuck to their seats with a single purpose: to tell stories, experiences, successes or failures, animated with the rich flavor of coffee and encouraged by a grandfather’s aristocratic air, who enjoyed his cigar while children secretly tried to steal a few drops of sambuca – at a time when society did not judge this mischief.
In short, this magnificent trilogy – the gathering, the coffee and the time – have disappeared from Hispanic dining halls.
Perhaps the accelerated American society has stripped us of an ancient treasure: listening, but listening while seated.
defines the after-the-meal period or sobremesa as the “time spent at the table after having eaten.” However, the meaning can suggest that it takes place “immediately after eating and without leaving the table.” Royal Spanish Academy
These family get-togethers – at lunch or dinner – are a sort of emotional drama whose audience is the most sincere and affectionate: the family. That is how it is explained by psychologist Cecilia Williamson, cited in an article titled “Sharing the family: The rescue of the after-dinner period.”
“Unfortunately, the after-dinner time is in danger of extinction,” Williamson says. “The fast-paced lifestyle, excessive obligations, intensity of work, exhaustion, the stress of work and social commitments, and the limited time devoted to the family in favor of other activities and pastimes undermine family life and especially the time that once existed around the table and that we call after dinner.”
Today, the after-the-meal period is a kind of archaeological artifacts, threatened by a parade of electronic devices. It is time to save this time, otherwise it will only exist in Hispanic literature as a unique element of scholars and intellectuals who used to end a hearty feast with a relaxed conversation.
Photos by Juan Miret