Camaraderie over brick oven pizzas

Alice Bustos-Orosa

Alice Bustos-Orosa

The friendships I’ve been tho–roughly blessed with all these years are intangibles I consider most valuable. For decades, my closest girl friends cum travel companions, Malyn and Monette, have been loyal friends.

Every month, our trio plans regular dinners to catch up on each other’s career successes and disappointments, beauty and health issues, and our own family’s stories. Each of us brings something different to this       long friendship, but Malyn’s insatiable appetite matched with a penchant for trying out new places about town has made for some of our most interesting dinners by far.

A few months back, Malyn texted me that our dinner that evening was at a certain un–familiar address in Cubao. Probing further, I texted back, “Is this a new restaurant?” to which she simply replied, “Just call me if you get lost.” Not quite certain what Malyn was up to, I looked for the place and couldn’t figure out any signage along the street.

Hence, when I arrived at the resto, I was quite surprised that it was someone’s home garage where a bunch of people nonchalantly chatted around a long wooden table set in the middle. Lined up in the garage were warmly heated brick ovens, pizza toppings and dough on a kitchen table, and meats marinating in large trays. As Malyn ushered me in, I asked Monette who the other guests were. To my chagrin, they both answer back, “I don’t know who they are.” We were in fact, to dine in the company of strangers for one evening.

Malyn casually tells me this is called “communal dining.”   Communal dining is thought to be the practice of dining with others with the conversation centered mainly on the food. That evening, the gracious host, a brick-oven maker, related how he would invite over new or old clients, to make their own pizzas and to bring meats to marinate and roast themselves. It felt like an impromptu block party where everyone brought potluck and helped themselves to the food.

As the evening wore on, the three of us smiled and carried casual conversations with the other guests, while we munched on piz–za and roasts. As dinner progressed, I watched amusedly as some guests took the role of master chef or sous chef, prepping and marinating the roasts and serving these to guests they barely knew.   Ensconced in the company of my two close friends, it turned out to be an enjoyable dinner after all.

Months later, Malyn decided to host her own brick-oven dinner for us to take our husbands along. Now, let me tell you though that among us three, in terms of our culinary skills, you could say that Malyn tops the bunch—with me a far second and Monette the last in tow.  And so, when we were  told that we would have to make our own dinner that evening, both Monette and I texted back, “Are you kidding?  Can’t we just eat out?  This is too much effort.”

But, naturally as friends are wont to do, we simply acquiesced in the end.

By 7 p.m., there I was lugging along a cooler with frozen steaks, while Monette arrived with ice-cold beer in hers. As we got Malyn’s home with our hubbies, Monette and were hastily ushered into her kitchen, told to wash our hands, and get down to cooking dinner.

As we topped pizzas and concocted our own recipes, we all ended up laughing at our own culinary inadequacies. And yet, our hubbies enjoyed every bit of the handmade pizzas and steaks that came out of the brick oven.

Through these all, I’ve realized that there must be something inherently unifying in cooking and preparing meals together. The idea of communal dining does have its merits, as food draws a natural sense of camaraderie even among acquaintances. Well, at least for three ladies, brick oven pizzas worked their magic for the best laughs shared among friends.


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