A GAGGLE of us grouped together recently at the Penarth Picnic and what a lovely evening was had by all.

The children opted for ‘Pizza Pronto’ and who can blame them? Friendly service; thin, tasty crust; sweet, tangy tomato sauce and strings of cheese that squelched and smacked against your chin as you slurped, the children were in pie Nirvana (as was I, my daughter left a little bit, so it was Mummy’s job to snaffle up the remains).

Sue and I joined the long queue for ‘Meat & Greek’. We ordered pork souvlaki, having watched the bar-b-cue greedily as we shuffled towards the counter. Chunks of juicy griddled meat were piled into large warm pitta with mounds of salad, dollops of hummus, lashings of yogurt and Sue had hers topped with Halloumi. We found a clear spot, not easy as the car park by Penarth train station had been transformed in to a little ‘street food’ oasis and it was buzzing, and whilst the kids bagged some deck chairs, the grown-ups were left to tackle their tucker whilst standing.

Sue and I laughed that this was probably not first date food, but as neither of us were on one, we cared little for niceties or appearances and got stuck in. Jean-Claude clearly cared little for such niceties either, as he dived in to a cake-cone from ‘Dawn’s Pantry’, a new one on me and something I was a tad sceptical about. But, Jean-Claude is a proud Frenchman and connoisseur of all things patisserie (his Paris-Brest is quite simply magnifique) and declared that the paper cone filled with cake and sauce and butter-cream was delicious and devoured it with gusto.

It all got me thinking about how and where we eat, with whom and how it affects our perception of others. Years ago a friend of mine told me how he had stopped dating a woman after taking her for dinner and seeing her play with her food, pushing it around the plate and being very fussy and serious about it all. He wanted to be with someone who tucked in to her food, like he tucked in to life, with relish. Food and love are intertwined for me in many ways, be it romantic love or simply showing someone you care. Can there be many more romantic scenes than when Lady and The Tramp suck up spaghetti together? I’m sure the moment that Richard Gere really begins to fall in love with Julia Roberts in ‘Pretty Woman’ is when she starts flicking snails about the place and in ‘Splash’, Tom Hanks falls utterly in love with his lobster gorging girlfriend, Daryl Hannah.

I’m not saying flick food around fancy restaurants or chatter with your mouth full. But, if someone truly loves you they will do so regardless of whether you slop tomato sauce down your top or have a spot of yogurt dripping down your chin and to find that one that does, it’s very special indeed.