Sunday, November 8, 2009

Gourmet Cuisine

Dedene recently published a post about the problems she sometimes has with the French language. Took me back a few decades.

The first day I arrived in France, years ago, my knowledge of the language was -- 'ow you say? -- rudimentary. Later I was to work in France and live in France and I became reasonably fluent, though I still manage to make my share of grammatical errors I assure you.

Anyway, that first day, knowing very little French, I went to a restaurant. I was starving. I was ready for one of those great French meals I had read about. I stared at the menu. There was nothing resembling an English word anywhere to be seen. I wanted to order something typically French but I had literally no idea what any of the dishes were that were listed on that sheet.

I decided to go with one of the items that seemed to be perhaps more French than anything else listed. It was "choucroute." It had such a Gallic feel to it. I could pronounce it okay, even if I didn't know what it was. I was sure it was a classic example of gourmet cuisine -- a piece, as the saying goes, of resistance.

When the waiter brought it to me I nearly fell off my chair. My first day in France, my first meal in a fine, expensive French restaurant, and I had ordered -- SAUERKRAUT!

Took a few days to get over that experience. :-)


Kevin Musgrove said...


(I was going to say "how galling" but the unintended pun was too awful for words)

Rosaria Williams said...

Ah, we've had similar experiences in our travels. EVen when we point at what someone else is eating, the experience is never easy.

Everyday Goddess said...

At least you didn't wind up with some kind of organ fricassee. Yikes!

Anonymous said...

HA! That's a great story. Every expat in France has ordered something strange during their first years.
My friend once asked for a "cadeau" in a restaurant rather then a "g√Ęteau". The owner gave her a piece of cake as a gift.

Thanks for the mention!

The Peach Tart said...

I always have to have the food translation dictionary in front of me.

Berowne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Berowne said...

(Dedene) I did more of the same in Germany. In a restaurant there I kept calling to the "Colonel," which is "Oberst" in German, when I meant to call to the waiter, which is "Ober." I was careful to pronounce "Herr Oberst" when I spoke to him; he got more and more irritated as the meal went on. I figure he may have felt I was mocking him because he was just a waiter.

Berowne said...

(Teach Part) "I always have to have the food translation dictionary in front of me."

A very good suggestion.

Berowne said...

(Oh My Goddess) "At least you didn't wind up with some kind of organ fricassee."

In a way I did. Once I dropped into a restaurant in rural France for lunch. I chatted with the headwaiter; he urged me to try the specialty of the house, their andouille. I had never thought I would like the sausage named andouille -- how right I was.

This guy told me that what made it so special there was that it, like most andouille, was made of pig's intestines, of course, but this restaurant added something special: the stomach and some other hog parts that were rarely used.

I should have realized that that was a deal-breaker, but I went ahead and ordered it.

To put it briefly, it was awful. I have been told by gourmet-types that there are indeed some good andouilles -- I don't believe a word of it.

Berowne said...

(lakeviewer) Yes, the first time I sat down to a meal in a Tokyo restaurant I did quite a bit of pointing -- and hoping

Berowne said...

(Kevin Musgrove) Thanks for your visit, Kevin.

French Fancy... said...

Haha - I was going to mention andouillette and then scrolling down to the comment box I saw that you'd beaten me to it. The worst thing I've eaten here was a sardine pizza with an egg in the middle - who knew that 'anchois' meant sardines?

Berowne said...

(FF) "The worst thing I've eaten here was a sardine pizza with an egg in the middle."

Yes, that doesn't sound great. But you should try it the way it's traditonally served, with a slice of pineapple and a maraschino cherry. Makes all the difference. :-)

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