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Porteño table talk 101
Why do we Argentines never want to leave the table after eating? Master the art of "sobremesa".

1. Company is non-negotiable

We eat in pairs, or in groups of five or 15, but never alone. Table talk, (sobremesa in Spanish) is all about sharing time with others. If you find yourself eating dessert alone, then grab the telephone, call a loved one and start discussing life, the universe and everything.

2. The plates stay put.

The table may be round, square or rectangular; there may or may not be a tablecloth, drinks mats and bread baskets, but for table chat to begin, what’s essential is that the plates stay on the table as silent witnesses to the numerous anecdotes and jokes about to be shared. As conversation progresses, at some point a generous volunteer will gather them up and start to wash them while the others keep him company.

3. Many conversations at once.

The number of parallel conversations taking place is proportionate to the number of participants. The linear logic of talk disappears and instead the person who puts the most enthusiasm into his story will prevail. An atmosphere develops in which everyone feels comfortable enough to share personal reflections, and there are those who say that if you insist a little, even the pets will voice their opinion.

4. Recurring themes: anything and everything.

It’s 10.45pm on a Thursday and a bunch of friends has just finished an asado. Over the next two hours, at the same table, we’ll hear a monologue about Juana’s day at work, Javier’s analysis of the growth of the Nigerian film industry and, as always, a recap of the time that Sofía tripped and fell into the pool (in winter) at her in-laws’ house. Like we said, a little bit of everything.

5. Tip: beer and wine take the talk even further.

Sobremesa porteña

If the food was accompanied by a robust “tinto” (red wine) or an ice-cold lager, then usually we’ll carry on as we began. However, if the meat and salad were served with water, then it’s time to crack open something stronger in order to celebrate our latest excuse for meeting up.

6. Drawing things to a close: “We’ll talk more about it tomorrow”.

Sobremesa porteña

No matter how many hours it’s gone on for, our sobremesa never truly finishes; it’s as if it’s on an infinite loop. We’ll always be left eager to continue talking, so our kisses goodbye (if you didn’t know already, we always kiss on the cheek to greet and bid farewell) is usually accompanied by a “We’ll talk more about it tomorrow.”

Learn more about Porteño gastronomy.