Sunday, October 05, 2014

Food foibles

As we travelled on our  motorcycle returning to Phuket (Thailand) from Malaysia, we stopped for lunch one day at a sidewalk eatery that once again reminded us that in this part of the world, you can have an international experience while sitting in one chair and observing your surroundings.

Our waiter, let's call him Zamir, was recently from Pakistan yet spoke good English and had a manner that in America would be considered pushy, but no doubt he considered it helpful. When we ventured towards the buffet counter, he adamantly said "No, no, sit here!" pointing us to a table with menus.

"But we just like to look at what we might want to order", Jordan said trying to ease Zamir's anxiety. But he enlightened us, "That's Malay food. You don't want it." We felt like saying, "Oh my mistake, I thought we were in Malaysia." We relented only because the menu had pictures.

As we perused the diverse selections of mostly Indian foods, Zamir peered at us with a drooped head and eyes wide as though he was looking over the top of invisible glasses. We're not familiar with this look. Was it to evoke a response? Like maybe, "I'm waiting!"

As diverse as the residents and foreigners are here, a westerner on a Thai licensed motorcycle seems to be a slight oddity. But not at this restaurant. We were just another colour on a palate of confluent cultures. The waiter was Pakistani who spoke English. The patrons we could see were a mix of at least 3 different ethnicities. Indian food, Malay food, Arabic calligraphic decorative inscriptions framed on the walls. And the name of the establishment was Danish Briyani Place. We can understand most of it, but Danish?

Lunch came and even though it wasn't even close to the pictures, it was delicious.

This reminds us of another interesting dining experience we had in Trang a while ago on the way down to Malaysia. We had a hankering for a familiar breakfast, and when we saw American Breakfast on the menu, we looked no further.

From previous experience, eggs can be served runny to raw. So Jordan wanted to make sure he got them well done. "Eggs, no runny", he said. This drew a blank stare as the waitress spoke as much English as the dead ducks hanging on display in the window.

No problem. This is when we use only the simplest, smallest English words and lots of pantomime. "Egg", he said, pointing to them on the menu, "Hard", as he rapped his knuckles on the granite countertop. More blank stares. At this point, he realized his pantomime repertoire for hard-cooked eggs was seriously limited so now he was stuck.

After a few moments of vacant eye to eye contact, the waitress finally flip-flopped her hands and Jordan immediately knew it was the best he was going to get and gave her the thumbs up and made a mental note to add her gesture to our repertoire.

Then it was on to the coffee. "Coffee with milk. Sugar on side", as he showed a package of sugar and put it beside the coffee cup. Blank stare. The coffee came with milk in it, but as they used sweetened condensed milk, the sugar on the side was a moot point.

Ah yes, food can be a peculiar challenge to make life more interesting!

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