Monday, March 28, 2011

Lost In Translation

Something you may not know about me.  I hate trying new foods.

I have to take the time to write a separate post about our jaunt to Montreal this weekend, but until then, here is a little anecdote from our trip that will provide some insight into the psyche of your friend Becky: I hate trying new foods.  Those who know me and are reading this are nodding their head in agreement.  The other day, my girlfriend Katharine asked me, as she was taking the last helping, "You're not going to eat any of this salad, right?"  Mostly out of politeness.  She knows I'm an Iceberg lettuce girl and that mescalin crap isn't getting anywhere near me.  I am the kind of person who will find something I really like on a menu, and order it every single time I go to a restaurant without fail.  Even if I know there are other really good things on the menu, I am so nervous that I won't like what I order as much as what I have already had that I take the safe route.  I order what I know I like.  That's just me.

This has happened to me before.  JDubbs and I had the most amazing honeymoon of all time: we took a cruise of the Greek Isles with stops in Croatia, Turkey, and Italy.  But mostly Greece.  You will find it interesting that while I was in Greece, the most ethnic food I ate was a Greek salad (which you will not be surprised to learn, is just called "a salad" there).  I ate a lot of pizza.  I had pizza in Croatia.  We skipped lunch in Turkey and we went back to the ship and I ate pizza.  I did try delicious new plates in Italy because I love Italian food.  And by new I probably mean I tried a new salad dressing or a new sauce on my penne.  I know we drank two bottles of wine in Venice but I can't remember what food we paired with them.  The cheese ravioli I had in Capri is still one of the most amazing meals of my life, mostly because I was in Capri and the view was to die for.  Here is a photo of our restaurant where we ate with our tour guide after stepping off our private boat:

A little slice of heaven.

The point is that I have been to now seven countries outside the USA, not counting my layover in Germany where I ate a Royale with cheese at the airport McDonald's, and throughout these adventures my fond culinary memories are pizza and cheese ravioli.  Not exactly ground-breaking stuff.  So when JDubbs and I followed a friend's advice and headed to a small, local brewery in Montreal for lunch on Saturday, we were expecting bar food.  Brewery = wings, potato skins, nachos, right?  Well, not in Montreal.  Bien sûr.

We walked into this brewery and loved it.  Loved the atmosphere, loved the people.  Exactly our kind of place.  Until we seated ourselves and realized that the menu is in French.  Well, duh, Américains.  Vous êtes au Québec.  We were in Quebec, where they speak, of course, French.  Having traveled a bit outside of the US, I knew this, but in those same experiences, I have done just fine with my English and decent Spanish because English makes the world go round and everyone wants my American dollar.  They'll speak some English.

Well, yes, our waitress did indeed speak some English.  Enough to say things like "veal brains" and "snails" when deciphering the menu.  Pizza and ravioli, remember?  I won't even eat veal main body parts, let alone veal brains, and I will never eat something that doesn't have legs, so you can imagine my delight when we got to the final item of the menu.  Crêpes, like your pancakes, the waitress said.  Perfect!  Pancakes it is.  She went to put our order in and left us the menu.  The pancakes came with a side of yogourt (we could figure that one out) and pommes puréeAfter a second of consideration, we decided that pommes purée must be pureed potatoes, like hashbrowns, because we've eaten pommes frites before and they are french fries.  Pommes must mean potatoes.  Since we were in Canada, cell phones were off due to roaming charges so I couldn't even use that handy Google Translate app sitting so nicely on my homescreen.  I was sure I would be fine.  You can't mess up pancakes.

Well, apparently Canada can mess up pancakes because although the crêpes looked delightful and the syrup was pretty legit, even to a Vermonter who has been syrup tasting recently, it was that freakin pommes purée and yogourt mixed together, which was some kind of rancid apple/yogurt disaster.  First of all, I don't even like yogurt--something about the fact that the microbes inside it are still alive and all--and the apples were gnarly!  And I really like apple!  Who ruins a perfectly good pancake by putting crap all over it?  Yes, I know, healthy crap, but crap nonetheless.  I am American and I like butter in an alarming shade of yellow, Denny's-style, scooped out of its tub with an ice cream scoop so it's plopped right on my plate, melting into an artery-clogging pool of happiness.  No yogurt!  No fruit!

In my defense, JDubbs found the pancakes to be equally disgusting and assured me they ruined it with  something strange like sweet potatoes or something.  In my outrage, I told my family that in Canada they put sweet potato puree on pancakes, to their shocks of disgust and horror.  This idiocy all made sense, let me assure you.  Up until five minutes ago, I still thought pommes meant potatoes, so sweet potatoes worked.  It wasn't until just now when I looked it up that I learned that pommes means apples, and so no wonder JDubbs thought it was gross, too.  He hates fruit! 
(Yes, you French-speaking readers, have a good laugh at my expense.  Especially you, Tammy, you Canadian!  It's all fun and games until somebody serves you fruit)

So what did I do with my crêpes?  Not eat them, of course.  I cut them, smushed them, mashed some into my napkin and tried to make it look like I had eaten some of it.  I drank my French cabernet/grenache/syrah blend (no, actually, it was nothing like a California cabernet, thank you, waitress!) and then, when I thought for sure I would be drunk off one glass of wine because I was still so hungry and was drinking on an empty stomach, I did what I should have done in the beginning.  I ordered American food.  Fries.  Not French fries, obviously.  Just fries.

Our waitress was completely confused as to why I would order just "chips," and had to make a special request with the chef, but out came my board o' fries and I was as happy as an American in Paris.  Hooray for food I recognized!  Hooray for good old potatoes, translated, annoyingly, pommes de terre.  Apples of the earth?  Whatever, French language.  You made me think I was getting potatoes and all you gave me was apples.  Not cool at all.  We Americans take our carbs very seriously.

And, so, now you know me a little better, although you may like me less because a) I'm crazy and b) I wasted your time making you read about my lunch in Montreal.  But I assure you, this describes me to a T.  And if you don't believe me, let me bring you back to July 2007, when we were in Katakalon, Greece, day 3 of our honeymoon.  JDubbs had lamb and a local beer for lunch.  Here is mine.


A Coke and fries.  In Greece.  I know.  I'm insane.  But, you know what they say,

When in like an American!

Wait.  That isn't what they say?  Well, they should.  Before our trip to Bermuda in September, I will brush up on my important food groups before I embark:  pizza, cheese ravioli, and fries.  They speak English in Bermuda?  Well, I will learn how to say these things in several languages, just to be safe.

The more you know.


I'm Jennifer. said...

This post cracked me up! And you remind me of me, when I traveled around Europe. I learned how to say noodles with butter in quite a few languages.
PS, those fries on the plank look so freakin good!

Life with Kaishon said...

This post was so interesting. I couldn't wait to find out what the heck pommes were! I totally would have thought potato as well! I am sorry you had such a bad experience. I am glad the atmosphere was nice : ) and at least they didn't mess up the fries. PHEW!

Thanks for visiting us over at communal global! What a pleasure to meet you! Love, Becky

Aaron said...

I hate yogurt, too. For that same reason. It is sour. Sour = going bad. Why would you put that in your body?!? On the other hand, though.....I do remember a certain someone calling to ask me what a kiwi is......and that makes me laugh even now. :)

XLMIC said...

Getting ready to embark on a trip abroad with 3 picky eaters! Ut oh! You are getting me prepped :)

DragonflyC said...

You are too funny. Potatoes are "pommes de terre" (apples of the ground).

I am the opposite. I look at the menu to find things I have never heard of and then I order that. I love trying new foods.


Diana said...

I believe witnessed your first taste of goat cheese in Temecula and you loved it! I wouldn't even try it! I was impressed.

Anonymous said...

The kid's face cracks me up every time I visit here :-)

It looks like you had a beautiful setting to try new food in ... even if it was everyday American food: LOL

Thanks for sharing.


Tammy said...

hahahahaha I love you. If it makes you feel my part of Canada we have 'poutines', which are balls of boiled potato with salt pork inside. Delicious. However, if you order 'poutine' in Montreal you get fries with gravy and cheese on it. Not that anything with gravy and cheese is a bad thing...don't tell my arteries.

Anonymous said...

Nothing says 'home' like french fries and a coke! At some point during every trip out of the country, no matter how much fun I am having exploring local cuisine, I start longing for good old American style FFs. Once, in England, I wouldn't stop until I located a skunky Budweiser. I don't even like Budweiser, but simply HAD to have one. Have fun in Bermuda!!

Tommy said...

You're silly. And, can we just talk about some wee little thing you mentioned? JDubbs doesn't like fruit? What?!

Dawniebee12 said...

Umm...That was me, not my hubby. Sorry!