Conversing is not a luxury, it’s a necessity

I was struck by the a comment made in passing by Christel Fricke, a magnificent German philosopher who teaches at the University of Oslo: “I like luxury, but I don’t need it.” It was a Imagedelicious spring evening, while I was enjoying a glass of white wine on the terrace by Yamaguchi Park in Pamplona and conversing amiably with her and Alejandra Carrasco, a professor from Chile. I don’t remember the content of that conversation, as I was saying farewell to the two guests at our university, but I took note of her comment because I thought it reflected well our own situation and, in addition, expressed something very profound about us human beings in a simple manner.

Her comment came to mind, perhaps in contrast, when I was at a recent lunch in a fancy restaurant in Pamplona with a friend from my adolescence with whom I hadn’t spoken in forty years. We were both excited about seeing each other again, and much more interested in telling each other about our lives than in the wonderful lunch that we were being served.Image  The prestigious restauranteur, as they now call those who run this kind of establishment, came to our table to explain to us the details of how his staff had prepared the delicious plates that we were eating, but what really drew our attention was hearing ourselves talk to each other. For me, the best thing about a meal is always the conversation.

To eat with a bit of hunger is a pleasure, to die of hunger a torture, and to eat without hunger a disgrace. Gastronomy aspires to multiply this pleasure via Imagesophistication and refinement, encouraging us to try exquisite and carefully cooked foods. Just as Babette did at the banquet she gave to the Danish puritans, as Isak Dinesen marvellously recounts. The French cook spends all her savings on a splendid dinner that returns warmth to the souls of those whom she had invited to table, and which culminates with emotional discourses and hugs.

“He who eats alone, dies alone”, says a sobering Kikuyu proverb. I don’t like eating, much less eating alone. The British philosopher Susan Haack told me that when she was a teenager she thought that eating was an unpleasant physiological function that one had to Imageinevitably put up with, and which did not require any particular attention.  But when she was 16, when she spent a summer as an au pair in Normandy, she discovered there that her French host family dedicated a full hour at midday to eating and another hour at night to dine on simple yet exquisite food. And even more, during these times—she recalled—they would almost always talk about food. For her, accustomed as she was to insipid English food so often eaten in silence, the experience was a real discovery.

Their friendly conversation made their meals more pleasant. Years ago the bibs that were put on babies in Spain would sometimes say “Shut up and eat”. Now, perhaps, they should say instead “Eat and talk”, or, even better, “Eat and chat”: that way the televisions would beImage shut off, the headphones would be disconnected, the cellphones and other annoyances would be silenced so we could enjoy mealtime conversation. It’s not enough to eliminate the noise that distracts us; we must also, as good hosts know, arrange the diners wisely around the table so that the conversation will be easier and more fluid, without bothersome squabbles and embarrassing silences.

Eating is necessary, eating with others is an expression of our social nature, and listening to one another is too.  It’s not a luxury, they are deep human needs whose satisfaction can even go so far as to create true works of art.


4 thoughts on “Conversing is not a luxury, it’s a necessity

  1. Pingback: BACK TO THE TALKING ERA | David Eslava Today

  2. Pingback: Time to Dialogue | Ana F. Alemany Blog

  3. Jaime I really enjoyed reading your essay and because of this I wanted to share with you one that I have written related to yours.

    The power of words:

    I have always said that one of the greatest pleasures in life is food and I think that I didn’t truly experience this until I got to college. I don’t mean this only because of the wonderful taste of food but also because of the environment that is created while people eat. Nowadays eating has become a part of day filled with conversation, laughter, sharing and pleasure.

    As I said previously I never really enjoyed food until two years ago I moved to Pamplona and lunchtime started becoming the best part of the day. After a whole morning of studying or going to class and being around the university, your head is filled with information. You have spent at least 4 hours looking at a book or at a blackboard and walking up the hill to get home is exhilarating. Just being able to sit down, forget about everything that revolves around university and start talking with my roommates about the first thing that comes to my mind is the most easing part of the day. It pulls the stress out of you for at least an hour and even though the first words that come out of your mouth may be “I hate university” after around four minutes you start laughing and your facial expression changes completely.

    I never really realized how important eating and just having a conversation with people was until one day I had to stay in the university due to lack of time and I was a different person for the rest of the day. Apart from the fact of not seeing my roommates and not being able to share time with them, I didn’t disconnect from my ongoing university stress for a second. All the classes I had after lunch were filled with daydreaming thoughts, constant desperation and a long face. After this experience I reached the conclusion that even if I have a lot of stress and a thousand things to do, going home to eat is something I have to do in order to be my complete self.

    As human beings, conversation is a necessity and in my personal opinion it can be as relaxing as going to the spa, watching a movie or even sleeping. While I am in college the best time for conversation takes place at lunch and dinner so for me the perfect plan is eating. No matter what you eat or the restaurant where it takes place as long as you’re with the right people any conversation is one of the highlights of the day. As Cristal Fricke says, “I like luxury, but I don’t need it”, well I would have to say I completely agree with this statement. Many people believe that going to fancy restaurants make the occasion a lot more special but I would have to say that what makes an occasion special for me is being with people that through their words can disconnect you from the worries of the world and simply make you smile.

  4. Pingback: Texting or chatting? – joaquinbausg

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