a man in his early 50’s came to my host family’s house in Lübeck, Germany to do some gardening and landscaping. From his dark tanned skin and heavily accented German, I wondered if Agustin* was a local. In fact, he was originally from Chile, but moved to Germany when he was a young adult. He was a fellow expat.
As is tradition when craftspeople (e.g., carpenters, landscapers, plumbers, etc.) do several hours of work on your house, it’s customary to offer a drink and/or small meal. My host Mama suggested I prepare a small lunch for the gardener as a gesture of appreciation, and of course upon learning that he was from Chile, curiosity had me googling, “Sandwiches from Chile,” which brought me to a recipe for chacarero: thinly-sliced steak/pork, tomatoes, green beans, and chili peppers on a bun. So, I made him a chacarero sandwich.
He accepted the food offering with a simple nod and a smile, saying nothing. Several moments later, he returned the empty plate with a simple “Danke” and went back to work.
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 convey them.
Later that evening, he called the house, something he rarely does because he doesn’t have a mobile, and Mama translated for me, “He wanted to thank you for the lunch you made today. It reminded him of his mother’s cooking, which he hasn’t had for many, many years.”
I didn’t know whether to smile or cry.
The expat life…
might seem like a wondrous adventure, and it is, to some extent, however, expats also have the challenge of assimilating into an entirely new culture. There’s new languages, new social etiquette, new living standards, and new food, 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 more challenging. So, we 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 would like to share with weary travelers who are away from home, like when Galadriel gave Frodo the light of Eärendil. How?
Let’s talk about my favourite meal of the day: BREAKFAST
I. Love. Breakfast. Nothing makes me quite as happy as waking up and stuffing my face with scrumptious goodies and washing it down with a freshly, brewed coffee. Cereal, pancakes, french toast, oatmeal with fruit, eggs Benedict; doesn’t matter. I love it all. Honestly, there are times when I go to bed with a smile glued to my face because I’m looking forward to what awaits my tummy in the morning.
In my humble experience, breakfast is not just a meal. It’s also a symbol of connection. Every morning as a child, my family would gather around the dining room table, munching on bowls of cereal (usually Rice Krispies, Cornflakes or Cheerios, or Fruit Loops on very, special occasions) if it was a school day or eggs, bacon, and toast if it was the weekend.
Some mornings, we’d be stressing out about an upcoming school/work assignment; other days, we’d be laughing nonstop until we lost track of the time. No matter the traumas or tribulations that awaited us, we started the day gathered together as the sun rose to greet us, and once the last bite of breakfast was devoured, we would accumulate our strength to take on the day’s challenges.
Years later and 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 as each grain hits the ceramic, I remember. I remember my family and the many breakfasts we’ve shared together.
If Kaeru Domicile becomes a cafe, it will serve damn good coffee as well as damn good breakfast. And not just breakfast the way I remember it, but breakfast the way the world remembers it; so that every traveling soul has a chance to reminisce about home. This would be a dream come true.
From traveling, I have a pretty good idea of the café & breakfast culture in Canada, Japan, and most of Western Europe, but I still have many more places 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. Curiosity drives me! What do they eat for breakfast? As for their coffee culture, is that even a thing there!?!
As always, thank you for reading and joining me on this #internationalcoffeejourney
*names changed to protect the privacy of the individuals
And for you, Frodo Baggins, I give you the light of Eärendil, our most beloved star. May it be a light to you in dark places when all other lights go out.
J. R. R. Tolkien