Soup, sherry and scraps of conversation

Words & Photographs: Fiona Christensen

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As an almost permanent resident of Grahamstown, one of my favourite things about the National Arts Festival is the food stalls and restaurants that pop in to cope with the huge influx of people. They range from street vendors, stalls on the various Greens and also homes and halls that get converted into lovely gems that make good food. One of these places is the Long Table. If you have been to the arts fest and not eaten at The Long Table then you truly have not experienced the wonder of eating at communal tables in a cozy lit hall packed with people from all over the place, sharing the yummy home-style cooked food on offer.

Sure the queuing and ordering system is a bit of a shambles but once you have your food and found a spot to squeeze in and sit, you realise why everyone makes such a fuss about the institution that is The Long Table. The food tastes like your mom prepared it with all the love in the world and is generously portioned in servings. And there is something there for everyone, whether you want a simple soup, roast lamb or some delicious sweets like the pecan pie or chocolate brandy cake. But the menu changes day-to-day so it’s always a surprise on what will be served, but the queue gives you ample time to choose your meal from the chalkboard by the time you pay.

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It’s best to go in a group so that one person can go find some spots at a table, the other can order the food and another go grab drinks from the delightful little bar at the top. The hum of chatter and plates being scraped clean adds to the light music playing and the pings of the microwave heating up food and everything about it feels like home. And I haven’t even got to the part about the company you keep at the tables. Obviously your friends are the company you choose but the neighbours around you are what make the place extra special. Only last night did we meet a teacher who had come from Malaysia to reunite at fest with local friends. He ended up sharing his whole bottle of wine and indispensable knowledge of teaching with us, adding our delightful night. And that was only on our left. To our right, a couple battled it out over a quick game of scrabble as others further down had burst into a “Happy Birthday” song for a friend.

IMG_8418All in all, we do suggest you save some space in your tummies to go take a trip to The Long Table halfway down High Street, stick out the queue and enjoy the food, drinks and company – you won’t regret it. Long Table is also open, if you just want to have a drink and relax after a long day of being ‘festive’.