Friday, April 10, 2009

What is this we're eating again?

Before I tell the story that follows, I think I had better explain that I checked with Daniela first to make sure she and her mom wouldn't mind getting blogged about. I don't want people to feel like they can't be friends with me without appearing on the blog, and Daniela would not be the first of my friends to declare herself non-bloggable. Non-bloggable status is a courtesy that I am happy to extend to any Friends of the Peril, just so you guys know. But Daniela read the post in draft and gave me permission to blog it; so here we go:

I had invited my friends Silvia (the mom, roughly my age) and Daniela (the daughter, roughly Anya's age) out for dinner the other night, because I wanted to discuss wages and logistics in re hiring Silvia to help clean Dessie's house occasionally and also to help out around my house with running errands, etc. But by the time Tuesday night rolled around, Dessie had made it clear that she didn't want the help, and the Department of Health had put my own house under precautionary tuberculosis quarantine. So about all I really could say about the jobs was, "Sorry, can't hire ya." Still, I had promised them dinner, and they are good friends and delightful persons whose company is very enjoyable, and so I took 'em out anyway.

Silvia and Daniela are from Mexico, and the restaurant I had in mind was Rudi Lechner's German restaurant, which is Anya's favorite restaurant because it reminds her of the German food her German grandmother always made when Anya was a little girl. So I asked Silvia and Daniela if they liked German food, and they informed me that they didn't know because they couldn't remember ever having any. Well, that settled it for me: time for them to try beef Rouladen and schnitzel.

It was a very enjoyable evening for me, as is any evening spent with people as good-hearted and joyful as are Silvia and her family, even though Silvia speaks only Spanish and my own Spanish has gotten worse, rather than better, since my work responsibilities changed and my spare time shrank so dramatically. (I won't put any Spanish in this post, by the way. You can remember, if it matters to you, that whenever Silvia or the Mexican waiter are talking, it's in Spanish; but in the meantime I'll just tell the whole story in English.) At any rate, in this very enjoyable evening, two things stuck out that I thought my Gentle Readers might enjoy as well.

1. The waiter was also from Mexico, and let's just say I don't very often see a bunch of Mexican families eating at Rudi Lechner's -- Mexican customers were clearly a very welcome novelty for this gentleman. Plus I think he thought Silvia was pretty cute. (For one thing, about the second question out of his mouth was, "Are you married?" -- though I have to say her answer of "Yes" didn't seem to slow him down.) At any rate, the restaurant was largely empty because it was a Tuesday night and we got there fairly late; so the waiter spent most of his time standing at our table talking happily to Silvia about Mexico. I'm going to have to take Silvia and family back to Rudi's sometime just for the waiter's sake if for no other reason. I just leaned cheerfully back in my chair and listened to them go happily at it. If I had played my cards right I could probably have talked the waiter into paying our check for us.

2. Anya's favorite dish at Rudi's is the escargot -- which, in case you don't know, is French for "snails smothered with garlic butter." Plus I love the stuff my own self...and, of course, I get a huge kick out of seeing people eat snails for the first time, because NOBODY expects to like 'em. "You want us to eat what???" So I ordered 'em.

I couldn't tell Silvia what they were; in fact, not even Daniela could come up with the Spanish word for "snail," and in the end the waiter had to explain it. (But since he was happy to have any excuse to talk to Silvia I doubt he considered this a hardship.) I assured the ladies that they were delicious, and then the escargot arrived, and I took the little escargot fork and firmly placed one snail on Silvia's plate and one on Daniela's. Then I took one for myself, popped it into my mouth, and leaned back to savor it...'cause I really do love the little critters. (As food, not as pets.)

Silvia and Daniela both stare wide-eyed at the escargot. Then they look at each other. Then they look back at the escargot. Then they look at each other and Silvia says, "You first."

"No, Mamí, you go first."

"No, you first."


About this time the waiter chimes in: "Why don't you both eat it at the same time?"

If you've never seen somebody who has never had snail, nerve herself up to put that first bit of garlic-buttered snail into her mouth, then I recommend that you take the next opportunity that presents itself. It isn't really cruel, I feel, for one simple reason: escargot is one of the world's really truly delicious foods; so you're actually doing them a favor.

Well, they did eat it, and then of their own free will they each ate another one because escargot is really quite delicious (or else because they were being very very polite to their eccentric gringo host, especially because I hadn't yet gotten around to telling Silvia I wasn't going to hire her after all), and then there wasn't any more to eat because said gringo host had gobbled up the rest. So I showed 'em how to sop up the rest of the garlic butter with bread, and in the end the escargot was a successful experiment.

So Silvia didn't get a job out of it. But from now on, if anybody asks her, "Have you ever eaten a snail?" she can reply, "Why, yes, I have." Which ought to be enough in itself to make her consider the evening a success, don't you think?


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