I give you the light of Eärendil, our most beloved star. May it be a light for you in dark places, when all other lights go out.
Last Monday, I experienced a sensation I’ve never felt before. This feeling was so satisfying and at the same time enticing. No, it wasn’t physical or sexual; it was purely emotional; one that could only derive from a moment of reminiscence brought on by an act of kindness.
Every Monday, a man in his early-50s comes to my family’s house in Lübeck, Germany to do some gardening and landscaping. From his tanned skin and accented German, it’s not hard to tell that he’s not a local. In fact, he’s originally from Chile, but moved to Germany when he was a young man.
As is tradition when craftspeople (e.g., carpenters, landscapers, plumbers, etc.) work on your house from morning till evening, I prepared lunch for the gardener as a gesture of appreciation. Mama said to make him a sandwich, and curiosity had me researching “Sandwiches from Chile”, which brought me to a recipe for chacarero: thinly-sliced steak/pork, tomatoes, green beans, and chili peppers on a bun.
He accepted the food offering with a simple smile and several moments later, he returned the empty plate with a simple “Danke”. Did he enjoy it? Did he recognize it? I wanted to ask him these questions, but I didn’t know enough German or Spanish to relay them.
Later that evening, he called the house, something he rarely does because he doesn’t have a mobile, and Mama translated to me, “He wanted to thank you for the lunch you made today. It reminded him of his mother’s cooking.” He hasn’t seen his mother for many, many years.”
I didn’t know whether to smile or cry.
The expat life might seem like a wondrous adventure to some, and it is… to some extent. However, we also have to assimilate into an entirely new culture (i.e., new language, new social etiquette, new living standards, new food, etc.), and this process can be quite stressful at times. Simple things like going to the supermarket or making a doctor’s appointment become 10 times harder. So, you can imagine the immense joy and comfort an expatriate feels when they come across something that reminds them of home.
This is the feeling I want to share with weary travelers who are away from home.
Let’s talk about my favorite meal of the day: BREAKFAST.
I. LOVE. Breakfast. Nothing makes me happier than waking up and stuffing my face with scrumptious goodies and washing it down with a freshly brewed coffee. Cereal, oatmeal, fruit, eggs ‘n toast; doesn’t matter. I love it all. Honestly, there are times when I go to bed with a smile because I’m looking forward to what awaits my tummy in the morning.
For me, breakfast is a yummy meal, as well as a symbol of new beginnings & connection. Every morning as a child, I would gather around the dining room table with my family, munching on bowls of cereal if it was a school day (i.e., Rice Krispies, Cornflakes or Cheerios because they are the cheapest and we didn’t have a lot of money, or Fruit Loops on VERY special occasions) or indulging in eggs, bacon, and toast if it was the weekend. Some mornings, one of us would be stressing about an upcoming school assignment; other days, we’d laugh nonstop until we lost track of time. No matter the traumas and tribulations that awaited us, we were gathered together as the sun rose to greet us; and once the last bite of breakfast was enjoyed, we would have the strength to take on the day’s challenges.
Away from home, my cereal bowl lays before me and the chairs around me remain empty, and as I pour the cereal and hear the melodic tap of each grain hitting the ceramic, I remember. I remember my family and the many breakfasts we shared together.
My café, 帰る [kaeru] Domicile will serve damn good coffee as well as damn good breakfast. And not just breakfast the way I remember it, but breakfast from around the world; so that every traveling soul has a chance to reminisce about home. This would be a dream come true.
I have a pretty good idea of breakfast & café culture in Canada, Japan, and most of Western Europe, but I still have much more to discover. At the moment, I’m wanderlusting fiercely for Jamaica, Brazil, Chile, Peru, the southern States, Albania, Morocco, Chad, Nigeria, Iran, India, Australia, New Zealand… just to name a few. It’s killing me to know what they eat for breakfast. And their coffee culture, is that even a thing there!?!