Last spotted in San Francisco, USA on March 28, 2003, 1:23 pm
Who is he? Where is he going? Where has he been? David Barrett / Quinthar
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One of the most exciting, and unnerving, parts of traveling is the food. I'll generally stick to that which I recognize more than I like to admit, but sometimes by want or need, it's fun to try something new. Like, unknown. Here I walk into a food court where all I see are Malaysian menus and not a word of English. The game of course is to pretend as your eyes wander aimlessly over the foreign menu you're actually discerning between the various options, weighing each against your mood and hunger. "Well... I think I'll have the Nasi Goreng today," handing back the menu with a casualness that I really don't feel. Did I order fish? Beef? Did I accidentally try to order the name of the restaurant, or a nice dish of "We only use fresh ingredients and never any MSG"? As it turned out, I actually ordered fried rice (Nasi) with chicken and peapods (Goreng, presumably). It's fantastic, as it is usually. I mean, if it's on the menu it's because somebody likes it, and as long as you're not picky it's hard to go wrong.
Of course, you can sometimes go wrong, and then you're stuck with a dilemma. Also in Malacca I order stingray for the first time, only to find that the meat is composed entirely of bone. That's right, you just kinda grind the bone down into some swallowable mass, and wash it down with lots of tea. The soup broth was absolutely incredible and the vegetables exquisite, but the stingray was about the least appetizing thing I could imagine. So, after dismembering it and carefully hiding it as best as I can on a big plate (skills we've all honed at the dinner table, such as hiding peas inside mashed potatoes, or beneath the chicken bones) I ask for the check.
Incidentally, there is this... motion you can do in any country in the world to indicate you're done eating and want you're check. It goes something like this: with your left hand mimicking a writing pad, hold it up in front and act like you're writing onto it with your right. At the same time - and this is critical - you must mumble something. Anything will do, as the chances of you actually mumbling "Bring me the check" in the correct language are virtually nil. Likewise, you don't actually have to be heard, your lips only must be seen moving. Finally, you must do all this while maintaining eye contact with the waiter/waitress. If any of these are missing, especially the mumbling, you'll just cause confusion.

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