Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Kindness of Strangers

It seems that my last two posts were a little crabby, so let me take a moment to write about something a lot sweeter.

We're staying in a refurbished house on the edge of the Parque Natural de Montesinhos, complete with a shared kitchen (of a weird, weird, inconvenient design--the cabinets come down to about two feet over the counters, so when you're doing anything with your hands--cutting, stirring a boiling pot--you can't see anything but the blank white cabinet door in front of your nose and so you feel a bit like the hands in one of those old skits from camp where you're the hands feeding someone else's face cereal or brushing someone else's teeth. But, of course, you have the knives and the boiling. But I wasn't going to complain . . . that's right . . . ), so it's pretty convenient. We had dinner last night with two other guests, or, at least, we all ate at the same time, although two different dinners. But afterwards we shared their port and our port, and talked long into the late evening (almost midnight, which would be late night in other parts of the world but is evening in Iberia).

There is also a restaurant, in the next building over, owned by the same folks who run the inn. We ate there our first two nights, and enjoyed it very much. The woman who served us is very sweet, and spoke to me in Portuguese, and asked if we wanted the TV on (we said no, because we have no resistance whatsoever and it's nice to at least look at each other once in awhile while eating, and taste the food), and served us only one Javali (wild pig) dinner instead of two, which meant that we only had a little left over, which she wrapped for us to take home.

On Friday we went again and had goat, which was also good, and potatoes and salad and a cornmeal pudding with amazing fig compote for dessert, and some local walnut liqueur. We were the only people in the restaurant when we arrived, but it was only 8:30 so this didn't strike us as particularly odd. Also, she put us in a different room than the first night, but we assumed it was because the room didn't have a TV, and we hadn't wanted to watch it (other people came in after us the first night and turned on the TV). Anyway, it all seemed like a perfectly normal dining experience. She wrapped our extra meat for us to take home--I explained that I'd used the Javali in sandwiches and would do the same with the Cabrito--and we left.

The next morning, yesterday, when I opened the Cabrito to make the sandwiches, I saw that she had put in extra meat. She was afraid that what we'd had left wouldn't have been enough to feed us, so she gave us more. Very, very sweet.

Then, last night at dinner when we were talking with our fellow guests, I told the story of the extra meat.

"But the restaurant wasn't open last night," said the man.

"What?" said we.

"It's closed on Friday nights," he said. "We went over to get a coffee after dinner and it was definitely closed."

So there you have it. The restaurant was closed, but without hesitation the lady gave us a lovely dinner anyway, and not only that, extra food so we could have a lovely lunch the next day.

The world is a wonderful place, flies and all.

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