Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Eurodining II

The drink scam has one side benefit: it encourages drinking. If free water is not available, and no drinks ever come with free refills, why not have a beer? If you can't beat 'em, drink with 'em. The lack of drink refills is a major change for me; at Rimel's I would usually just take one of the pitchers of iced tea. I rarely finished it, but the waitstaff was happy. They didn't have to walk around as much, and I didn't have to wait. Rimel's had erratic service, and only good atmosphere. But I miss their food the most, especially that green chile garlic sauce.

Europeans - not just Germans - who label things as Californian miss the soul of Cali cuisine: cilantro. Cilantro is the pinata of cooking; it should be omnipresent. Readers lost on that one, or prior quixotic references, should note that most blogs put the most recent posts on the top. Read the earlier ones or boil your head in a kettle of Spee. You might get a following, we'll get a national holiday, and Jesus will appreciate the distraction from crosses.

Meals are often served with salad, even if tiny. The most expensive lunch at Mensa always includes exactly two pieces of red leaf lettuce, two tomatoes, two cucumber slices, and sprouts. In the time they spend micromanaging veggie selections, they could open another food line and relieve congestion. Salads often contain corn. I have yet to encounter a choice of dressing, but the default dressing, sort of a tarragonny 1000 island, is pretty good. As is the corn. Good call.

When I was seven years old, Dad, Pat Muldowney, Rob Kunkel, and their buddies would often go to Felipe's in Oceanside for pizza. That Felipe's is gone, but there are several in San Diego County and they are still pretty good. (Better pizza can be found at Oggi's, Lorna's, and others, but Felipeses have better atmosphere.) Old Felipe's had a reversible sign at the front. One side said 'Please seat yourself' and the other said 'Please wait to be seated.' My friend Ryan Muldowney and I knew of nothing funnier than reversing that sign and watching the ensuing chaos. We had pretty impressive counterprimary surveillance, with one of us always keeping an eye out for waitresses approaching the table or that sign. We won bonus points if the waitress corrected the sign and we then turned it back around. I have no idea how we avoided getting caught. In retrospect, our dads must have known, and never stopped us. Most likely explanation: they thought it was funny too.

I have paid for that during my first month here, when I would enter a restaurant and wait to be seated, or at least make eye contact with a waitron. This just confused them, and then me. No, the proper schema is to just sit down. But wait, you ask, how does the wait staff know you're there? Especially if you are sitting outside? Aha, but the Euros don't care about that, and will happily just sit there (without sunglasses) until being recognized. Once I worked this out, I was rewarded by being greeted in German and handed a German menu. While this reflects progress, I still neither speak nor read enough German. But I have a default answer - just ask for a minute, because no matter what they said, it's some way of asking for your drink order. To parahprase Twain, better to remain silent and be thought an American than to speak and remove all doubt. Twain's outstanding essay, the awful German language, is cited in my recent "On the Engineering Superiority of German Speakers," which is too long and far too dangerous to post here.

I am frequently confused by the proactive thank you. Bitte shoen is the response to danke shoen, not its precursor. Yet this happens routinely. Your waitress brings you something, and immediately says bitte shoen. Stop. I haven't thanked you yet. I have the option of not thanking you, just like I might choose not to tip you. It's an option I very rarely justify, yet you rob me of this petty choice. I yearn to learn ventriloquism, or its electronic equivalent, so I can start placing drink orders and thanking them completely out of context. Stop. Let me thank you first. You're welcome.

Not very many places take Visa or Mastercard, though they all accept the EC card, which I must get. Indian food is watery. Some places serve nothing but baguettes, which are often pretty good. Chinese food is often too salty, though I have found a few good places. Zui Yuan has a tasty buffet, and they give me a pot of tea for only €1.50 and free tap water with ice.

Jack Daniels is prevalent, and varies widely in cost, from €1 per shot to a few places that charge €8 and put it on the menu next to Laphroig and McCallan 18 Year. I suppose they're all imported whiskey, but Cuervo Regular is imported tequila. 'Nuff said. I would be remiss in my review of good times here without mentioning the wonderfully hospitable dinner I had with Drs. Basar and Strüber (a fellow survivor of the Polich lab) from the Psychology department here. Tasty food and good conversation with ol' John Daniels, referenced below. I do sometimes hesitate about the political fallout from such posts, but blogs are blogs and such hesitancy and insecurity may not be worth the stress. So a couple scientists got drunk. Oooooh.

My great mistake, the fault for which I can't forgive myself, is that one day I ceased my obstinate pursuit of my own individuality.
Oscar Wilde


Anne said...

"Bitte schön" means you're welcome... it also means "there ya go" (and "please".) Still throws me off sometimes, but they're not trying to be rude. :)

Brendan said...

Well, live and learn. I left the original post unchanged to keep me humble. Danke shoen.

Chris Cutter said...

Hi, bumped into your blog when looking for Tamales in Bremen :-)
Been to Atlanta and the Southern USA recentley. American Dining was new to us. So it amused me very much to read your post of european dining from the other point of view.
Chris, Bremen