As those of us who travel all know, the best (that is funniest) stories involve embarrassing language snafus. Or horrible foreign toilets. Or both.
But I'm just going to talk about food this time.
Both The Spouse and I have had our disasters with misunderstanding a foreign menu and ending up with something we did not expect.
It happened to me on my First Ever Trip to France. We had been in Paris for several days, and I thought I had gotten the hang of the French dinner menus: you pick a price category or menu, and then you can usually select from several options in that price range. I wanted to branch out a little and try something new, so I ventured into Fish World and ordered something that sounded a bit more romantic, more poetic. What I thought was the French version of those menu items you find in a Chinese restaurant that give no clue as to the actual dish ingredients. You know like Happy Family or Three Delicacies Over Sun Moon Lake.
I ordered Aile de Raie, which I knew meant Wing of Ray.
What I did not expect was that it really meant WING OF RAY. As in skate. In a lemon caper sauce.
I was hungry, and this was not at all what I wanted, and The Spouse had ordered a really nice Merguez couscous, and he was hungry too and not into sharing.
I wept and, because we were in France, mimed a ray, hoping to garner pity, but to no avail.
His turn came years later in Bratislava at a restaurant called Voch. I don't think it is there anymore, but they used to serve this fantastic dessert called something like an Emperor Pancake or Kaiserschmarrn. Oh, God, it was good.
So we go one night, and we are sitting outside in the square there ordering our dinner, and The Spouse finds an item on the menu called Čizi Piži.
He quizzes the waiter in Slovak: "Is it good?"
Waiter, noncommittally: "Umm, yeah. I guess."
The Spouse sees the Slovak word for baked in the description: "So it's baked?"
Waiter: "In a cream sauce."
The dish arrives, and that was when we learned the Very Important Lesson in Slovak:
Pečeň does not mean baked.
It means LIVER.
Pečeny means baked.
Today, I met The Spouse for lunch. There is a restaurant in the building where his office is that features a daily Business Lunch. We had the same thing in Slovakia: the restaurant offers a fixed menu for a reasonable price. It's quick and, as long as you like the offering, it can be a good value. Order off the regular menu at lunch time and you will throw the kitchen into chaos as they are prepared to whip out the Business Lunch Menu.
So we have started getting the Business Lunch when we go there. The choices on the menu today are some sort of chicken dish with rice or a fish dish with mashed potatoes. I had a fish dish the last time I was there, so I opt for the chicken dish.
So does The Spouse.
It comes with a nice salad of salted tomatoes, cucumbers, and grated carrots and a bowl of meat solyanka . . . very delicious and typically Russian.
Then the main course comes.
Well, you can probably see where I'm going with this.
It's chicken, alright. In a cream sauce with sauteed onions over rice. But not chicken fingers or even chicken thighs.
It was CHICKEN GIZZARDS. куриные потрохи.
"I had NO idea it was going to be organ meat," The Spouse says as he and I pick around out gizzards and eat only the rice and onions.
"I thought that it would be a shape or cooking method," he sighs as we leave the restaurant. "Not a body part."
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4 years ago