A Café Is So Much More Than Just A Place To Eat
The pleasure of sitting in a local café, idly drinking a coffee on a Sunday morning, reading the paper and stretching out for another slice of home-made cake is one of the great delights of life. Some of our most pleasurable, intimate conversations take place across a café table, and my local place, a small independent haven on the corner opposite a park in the city, will always be my go-to spot for relaxing and recharging.
It’s not just that they know me there, and greet me by name and fix me up an order as I take a regular seat, it’s more that I know that whatever is happening in my life, that constant welcome will always be there, ready to draw me in and help me forget about the world outside for a few minutes.
But what is it that makes a café like that so special?
For me, a key aspect of a great café is just how honest it is. It doesn’t try to put on airs and graces, or to offer a pretentious or experimental menu or to be something it isn’t. A good café is just solidly truthful, and glad to be so. Like all the best people, a café has joy in its heart, wrapped up in rough edges, so I don’t mind if the chair is a bit wobbly or the crockery doesn’t match, or the scones aren’t all the same size. What matters to me is the honest goodness of a bowl of home-made soup and that my dog is always welcome to curl up under the table at my feet.
Another great aspect of most cafes is that they are largely independent, often family-run businesses, free to create their own internal culture and ways of operating. This makes them unique, and to be treasured. More often than not this type of café will develop an identity and style that reflects the social and cultural mix of the community it serves, and in this respect, plays a valuable role in sustaining not only culinary traditions but social ones as well.
But the greatest pleasure in a trip to the café is the sense of social connection generated in an environment that celebrates the collective wisdom and creativity of the people that live and work nearby. A good café is the hub of the community – a place to celebrate life’s successes or commiserate with a cupcake or two, surrounded by people who love the place just as much as you do.
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