Winter season is officially open. People are whipping out their mezzotemp coats faster than you can say “il-qaħbeċ x’bard”. And with colder weather comes more organised group activities.
The Maltese long-boozy-lunch (also referred to as the liquid lunch in some klikkek) is a staple on the winter calendar. As soon as you get that Whats App notification you know you’re in for a marathon of food, drink and talking about everyone you ever met who isn’t at that lunch.
Here’s how it normally plays out:
1. Everyone’s late
You’ve just surpassed the acceptable time bracket for “I’m going to be a bit late”, but it’s riħ isfel, you still have to stop for petrol, and your mum is hassling you to take a thicker jacket. It’s fine – your guilt about making your friends wait for you will evaporate instantly once as you walk into the restaurant and realise you’re the first one there.
2. It’s like musical chairs but with purpose
The worst thing that could happen to you on this day is ending up sitting at the end of the table straddling the table leg. So you try to maintain your cool as you silently but firmly nudge your oldest friend out of the way of your desired seat. It’s only when you realise you’re sat next to bad-breath-Brenda for the next three hours that you wish you hadn’t been so determined.
3. Social anxiety hits
You’re surrounded by sixteen of your closest friends by you’re completely stumped for interesting conversation. You replay your entire week in your mind to try and think of a funny anecdote,but all that you manage to articulate is “maa, what a nightmare it was to park“.
4. Breaking bread
The free bread basket arrives to shatter every shred of awkwardness across the table. You suddenly ease into your seat and Brenda’s breath takes on an air of familiarity that repulses less than it warms the heart.
5. The sharers make their case
“Tgħid we choose two main courses and share?” Why? So I can agonise over what I’m going to eat with the impending dread of food envy, twice? No thanks.
6. You warn everyone that “you can’t stay too late”
I have to go and visit my nanna later – you tell anyone who’ll listen. This should give you an easy out when you’re sick to death of listening to Brenda talk about her bridesmaids dresses for her wedding in four years’ time.
7. By main course someone is already more drunk than everyone else
Somebody hide Sarah’s wine.
8. Cue the “madoff ħa jkolli niftaħ buttuna” comments
Let’s face it, it wouldn’t be a group lunch without them.
9. Someone actually has to leave early
Aside from the jeering, name-calling and tuts of disapproval, whoever is unlucky enough to actually have post-lunch plans has to deal with the headache of paying their way before leaving. Our advice: throw in an extra €5 as you sneak off. It’s a small price to pay for not having your friends talk about what a qammiel/qammiela you are after you’ve left.
11. The digestivo
It’s not enough that you sunk practically a bottle of wine per person, you need to tie a booze-bow around this epic food and drink binge. As the waiter (hopefully) offers you a liquor on the house – seeing as you’ve spent the equivalent of a home loan in the past five hours – the table silently judges each person according to their choice of drink. Averna – classic but unoriginal, Baileys – pfft… what a pleb, Fra Angelico – da jaħseb li hu xi taljan?
12. And finally – the bill
Friendships have ended over this stage in the boozy-lunch game. You’re dizzy from the amount of people who’ve told you in a disclaiming tone – “I only have card eh“. You’re praying your accountant friend Jason will sort this shit all out. And just when you think you’ve reached the end, Sarah drawls with unfailing entitlement – “I only had a starter ta“.