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Saturday, 14 March 2015

Food comes with a language of its own

I walked into the pizzeria around the corner from my house and I knew I wanted to try something different from the regular Margherita. The place was neat, crisp and even pleasing to the senses with its turquoise and white interiors. Everything about the bright, sunny day told me that I would enjoy the wonderful meal. 

Then, came the moment of truth. 

The menu was in Italian and I needed serious help from Google Translate. Not wanting to make the tedious effort, I turned to the server to ask for suggestions. Almost as soon as I uttered my request, I realized my mistake. The server was not bilingual and my food habits were unusual for this side of the world.

 I am a vegetarian
 I am allergic to eggplants 
 I don’t like zucchini 

Minutes into the conversation, which included some parts of the sign language, I resorted to the regular Margherita. 

When I see someone who appears to hail from some part of the Indian sub-continent, I realize that I may have said my prayers well. 

There was a time when I met a Bangladeshi server at a restaurant, and managed to strike up a conversation in Bengali to order a finger-licking vegetarian lasagna. I can never forget the look on his face, after conversing with me in his mother tongue. He served me well, and brought me chili oil realizing that my taste palates are accustomed to the strong flavor and I went back there every week just so that I could enjoy the meal and the conversation. 

Another Bangladeshi once came to my rescue at a take away joint.  I visited the place because their menu included a veggie burger. Excited that this would be easy, I went there to grab a quick lunch. The description of their tortilla wraps called out to me and my love for Mexican food was doing summersaults in the pit of my stomach. The tortillas had pieces of chicken but I was happy to buy it with the other fillings at the same price. This place was an open kitchen and the chef, a Bangladeshi. I presented my request to him in Bengali. He was very happy to hear his language in this foreign city and even happier to accede to my request! He saved me the trouble of decoding my innocent request for the Italian cashier. 

Some times the half Italian-quarter English-quarter sign language conversations flow into tones like 
“Oh vegetariano! No chicken, fish okay?” 
“No we cannot make the pizza without the salmon toppings” 
“Yes, we have vegetarian soup” - “Are you sure?” -“Yes, its all vegetables in chicken broth” 
“Yes, we can provide split bills” - Brings separate bills for each item! 

If what is served, does not meet my expectations there is no way I can complain because the server conveyed the specifications of the dish. Just, not in so many words!