Lunch at Ramon’s

Every Saturday, in the village of St. Julia, Andorra, there is a group of people meeting for lunch at Ramon's – also know as El Principat.  It's not a formal group.  Anyone can show up and be welcomed anytime. We went once a month. The only rule is that the gathering is for English speakers, though not necessarily as a first language.  The group can range from 4 to 24 and include British, American, Dutch, Spanish, French, Belgium, German, Scandinavian, Irish, and unknown 'English speakers'.  People start straggling in around noon for coffee or a drink.  At 1:30 a nose count is taken and Ramon is informed of the number.  The table is set-up in the dining room and around 2:00 the group slowly meanders into the dining room.  Ramon walks by, depositing 1 bottle of red wine in front of every two people, a few bottles of white and maybe, just maybe, a bottle of water or two.  The youngest in the group is probably 45 and the oldest is, well, older than dirt.  Ramon, post-it note in hand, starts taking the order.  Now, his menu hasn't changed in 10 years and the same people come for lunch most Saturday's but still some are unsure what to order.  A discussion in many languages ensues (no, the 'bacalao' is halibut, not cod…you're wrong, it's monkfish). Ramon is from Paraguay and speaks Spanish and Catalan (Andorra's official language); the group orders in Spanish, Catalan, French or English depending on which names have been learned for the food.  Periodically Ramon plops another bottle of red on the table.  (I always drank white on the basis that cheap white wine drunk cold is better than  cheap red at room temperature….personal opinion).  A couple of hours of talking, arguing and bland jokes follow (much the same as the week before – thus our monthly as opposed to weekly attendance).  Around 4:00 Ramon starts sweeping the floors and putting up the chairs – a not-so-subtle hint.  The bill is asked for. It is delivered – one number scrawled on a post-it note.  A new price is established each January, but for the rest of the year it stays the same, regardless of how many bottles of wine are consumed and how many peach schnapps are served with coffee.  Still, the calculator comes out and after several minutes of serious discussions, recounting of noses and frantic punching of buttons the individual tab is announced.  This week?  Same as last, and the week before, and the one before that…lunch at Ramon's is a whopping 8.45 euros per person, including tip.  We carefully count out the exact change and all toddle out the door for a nice siesta before dinner.

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