I was asleep for most of the 36 hours that I’d been awake for and it seemed to have been dark for longer. We had swapped driving, thinking and sleeping duties eventually despite the fading light and the pressing need to get out of and through the country. I lost count of the artificial borders we crossed and recrossed but I had to eat something. The lights of a restaurant beckon and we stop, the rain water steaming on the bonnet in rainbow wisps as the doors slam.
Inside it’s warm, welcoming, slightly grimy and busy. Diners jostle for positions, glasses and cutlery play a rough musical accompaniment, the diners eat and talk. There is candle light and music, louder than it should be. There is a customer queue but it is reducing like an optical illusion. The waitress shows us an empty table and despite being cramped in the car the wooden benches are a comfortable relief. We order from the limited menu, steak. See wipes the table with a cloth and smiles.
Steak comes from cattle, cattle from fields, fields from farms, farms from the land, the land from the sea, the sea from the clouds, the clouds from the vapour, the vapour from the breath, the breath from the lungs, the lungs from the body, the body from the womb, the womb from the female, the female from the male, the male from the chip, the chip from the block, the block from the granite, the granite from the cliff, the cliff from the beach, the beach from the sand, the sand from the stone, the stone from the earth, the earth from the other, big earth, somewhere out beyond our understanding. That is the story of the steak that sustains us. The tomato and baked sweet potato that take up the remaining third of the plate have their own stories and creation theories, I cant repeat them here. We all need some mythology to sustain us on this long journey, e need to come from somewhere and be going somewhere else.
I cut into the dark, brooding steak creating a continental divide and took a mouthful of coffee. Ernesto was staring at his plate savouring the meal, smiling and chewing on the beef. He pointed his fork at me to make a point, “here the produce the best meat, the best, it what they do, the cattle men, we can learn, we can watch, we take our knowledge back to our ranch, one day.”
I don’t know so much about the steak, though it is pretty good, the right thing at the right time, I like eggs.