A woman, whom I had never met before,  bought me lunch on Monday. Not that I was starving or begging for lunch, it was just a genuine social grace. Was cheese involved, yes, but what really struck me was the genuine and simple invitation to, “please sit and enjoy some of this meal with me.”

Maybe it’s just me, but the first time you meet someone sharing a plate is not what I tend to think of.  That said, it was decidedly European (she is French) and disarmingly….natural.  As a whole, American eating habits tend to be more individualistic.  For example, how many meals have you had behind the wheel of a car or while sitting in front of a television.   If you are like most of us, it’s become routine.

Are you brave enough to change that ?  To make mealtime a priority and choose to sit with a stranger?  Perhaps invite one to share your table or even your plate?  If you tensed up a bit thinking of it I don’t blame you. Sitting with a stranger and enjoying a meal is well, civilized. In that moment you learn more about their graces, manners and appetite and similarly reveal yours.  So if you are curios or feeling that you could be up to it, set the table with cheese and charcuterie.

A cheese and charcuterie meal is about a simple as it gets.

Think of it as a deconstructed sandwich where each “piece” has its own place on the platter.  Using the sandwich metaphor you could have two or three sliced cheeses and same of meats.  To that, add a side of pickles (French cornichons are addictive) some olives, perhaps a tomato bruschetta a small ramekin of mustard or some double devon (high quality) butter.  For a contrast to the savory flavors, consider a sliced apple drizzled with honey or a pear drizzled with a balsamic reduction on the side with some chocolate nibs together with hazelnuts and peanuts.

Bread or crackers?  In my experience it’s nice to have both for a contrast of textures and tastes.The goal is create foundation to dip or stack small bites together.  Sidenote – toast old bread ends and cut them into “fingers” to stack open face nibbles on.

Small bites keep the conversation flowing and your palate looking forward to the discovery of new flavor combinations. Better still, being able to create your own combinations avoids some of the awkwardness of who eats what, when and your disliked (or unfamiliar items) can be avoided.

With these abundant bursts of flavor that you create at whim (while dining with a stranger) it relaxes everything.  The only oddity (to me) is that it took a visitor from France to remember how  natural sharing food with strangers can be.  Give it a try.


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