More Food

One of my goals whenever I live in a different country is to be able to do things like a local, buying or asking for something with only a few, short words. I always try to use hand gestures, head tilts and one or two quietly said words to get what I want. There is something about the lack of verbal communication that communicates what I want in a way only someone that KNOWS how to order something would order it.

One of my favorite restaurants is on a dusty road on the way up a hill next to the school where I work. In a past blog entry I wrote about how when you eat on the street there is usually a very big bowl of some carb based food (rice, pasta, ground up corn mush balls etc) and a sauce. This restaurant is different in that instead of one pot of sauce there is a table with around 20 large cooking pots full of sauces of all type of color and texture. There are green sauces that have a stringy snot like consistency (gumbo…. HATE!), red sauces with chunks of assorted fats or curled up rolls of skin (actually learning to like both skin and fat), and various colored liquids with chunks of meat (of various quality). The sauce I always go for is the first one on the far right of the table: Antelope (here known as Biche).

When you walk in the door you enter a concrete room about 10 by 20 feet. On one side are two low tables about 8 feet long. Each table has two long benches on either side that sit only a few inches bellow the eating surface. This means that everyone sits, semi-hunched over their metal bowl of carb and sauce, massaging and then gently tossing the food from hand to mouth. On each end of a table sits a large plastic, multi-colored bucket filled with water, a plastic basin and cup. When you sit down at a table you fill the cup with water, position the basin in front of you, and using your left hand pour the water over your right hand while rubbing all the fingers in order against your palm.

I walk in, turn to the round motherly lady manning the pots, and order with a total of seven softly spoken words:

"Riz cent francs. Biche trois cent." (I then sit down and say to one of the young waitress girls) "Castel."

I sit down at my favorite spot (far right of the table directly across from the entrance with my back against the wall) and wait for my food and beer.

By the time I am done washing my hands the first glass of beer has been poured and placed on my left and my shinny stainless steal food filled bowl put in front of me.

When I first started going to the restaurant I always ate my rice and antelope with a spoon that the ladies automatically put in all bowls for foreigners. The other day I sat down to my usual meal and without thinking, put the spoon on the table, and started mixing the rice and sauce with my hands. After eating my first bite of food I realized that I wasn’t eating the way I have been eating for so long. I instinctively picked up my spoon and took another bite. It didn’t taste right. There was something about the metal mixing with the spicy flavor of the sauce, the warm sticky alive feeling of the rice being marred by the dead spoon that I put it, now dirty, back on the table.

I’m waiting for the day when the waitress notices the clean spoons and eventually treats me like everyone else.

14 comments:

Gary said...

Very nice. Spare use of words to order and write: a treat. I hope your carb and sauce was, too. Skin and fat, eh? Is it like chicken skin, or more like a hunk of beef with tough hide and a glob of fat?

When we visit, we'll bring Cipro, just in case. Not sure even Indian intestinal fauna have prepared us for this.

Thanks! It's never too soon to read a new blog of yours.

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