Spice of life: Building bridge of trust over food and family

Updated on Jan 23, 2023 07:43 PM IST

As he sliced the burrata smoothly with his fork, he told me how his Nonna had taught and passed on her prized recipes down the family. I shared with him how exactly the same way, my grandmother had shared her pickle-making skills

I came to realise that at the end of the day, we all are humans whether we live in India or Italy. The barrier of language and culture is just in our mind. (Getty Image for representational purpose)
I came to realise that at the end of the day, we all are humans whether we live in India or Italy. The barrier of language and culture is just in our mind. (Getty Image for representational purpose)
ByMegha Garg

On a recent work trip to Italy, I happened to meet my Italian business associate over dinner at a restaurant in the marvellously sculpted Milan Duomo. As we met for the first time after having exchanged e-mails over several months, I was a sceptical whether I would be able to communicate freely with him due to our cultural and age differences. And, if I’d be able to explain to him my company’s work ethics and the dedication and sincerity with which we work.

As the waiter came by to take our order, I ordered the tomato and basil soup and my Italian counterpart Marco asked for culatello with burrata cheese and guessing by his gestures I could make out that he gave special instructions for my dish as well. As we sipped the local Tuscan wine alongside the crusty golden bread, we started exchanging our family pictures. When I told him how close knit, we Indians are with our children, I was pleasantly surprised to know that Marco too spent the winter break skiing with his kids and grandkids in the Austrian Alps. As he sliced the burrata smoothly with his fork, he told me how his Nonna had taught and passed on her prized recipes down the family. I shared with him how exactly the same way, my grandmother had shared her pickle-making skills with my mother and me.

After dinner, Marco offered to take me to dessert at an ice-cream parlour a few minutes away. On entering the gelato shop, a boy aged around four came running towards us and jumped into Marco’s arms. Curious by this display of affection between two strangers, I couldn’t help asking, “Are you a regular at this place, Marco?” Smiling from ear to ear, he replied, “This brat here is my grandson. My daughter and son-in-law own this place and I find an excuse to visit them any chance I get.”

He then introduced me to them and I asked little Fredericko what his favourite food was. He looked shyly at me and then at his mother as if asking her with his big twinkly eyes whether it was right to talk to a stranger. After she consented, he replied, “Pasta and ice-cream.” My face broke into a grin at his answer as my son’s go-to Saturday night dinner was the same. I was then treated to my heart’s content with ice-cream. I left with a warm fuzzy feeling and a story to share with my loved ones.

I came to realise that at the end of the day, we all are humans whether we live in India or Italy. The barrier of language and culture is just in our mind. In the course of time, we brokered a deal to buy machinery, but instead of a business dinner, the thing that was needed to clinch the deal was trust. And that trust was built over a period of three hours and a conversation revolving around food, family and heritage.

ashmeg20@gmail.com

The writer is a Ludhiana-based freelance contributor

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