“La…what?”, you ask. La once. To clarify for the non-Spanish-speaking, it’s once (pronounced “ohn-seh”), the Spanish word for “eleven”, not once like, “once, twice, three times a lady” (that’s a great song, though). If tomando la once is something you haven’t heard of before, well then, have a seat and let me tell you all about it!
About a month ago, my mom and I went to Chile for two weeks. During our time there, we learned about various local customs, including (but not limited to) the once. Simply put, tomando la once is the Chilean version of the British high tea. It’s a “light” snack, normally served around 7:00 PM. I say “light” because by the time you’ve sampled one of everything on the table, your light snack has turned into a full dinner, which looks a bit like this:
Apart from the sheer amount of delicious food and beverages that are available during the once, however, this daily tradition struck a chord with me for several reasons:
- There are no mobile devices in use during this time, and no TV watching either.
- People you invite to your once can bring something to share with everyone.
- It happens around a dining table – sometimes two tables pushed together if your group is large enough.
The once is a time to break bread with one another (literally; bread is a cornerstone of Chilean cuisine). It provides an opportunity for family and friends to sit down with one another and catch up. More than that, however, the once is a lovely reminder that some of the most important connections we can make in life are the ones we make face to face.