I’ve been traveling a lot lately, and this is sage advice…
I tend to skip dinner every now and then, but I always try to eat a tasty lunch. The problem when one travels, however, is one never knows what one is getting into when one goes into a strange restaurant. One can get stuck badly on the road.
My friend Rigsby and I were in Washington recently and we decided to go to trendy, ethnic Georgetown for lunch.
“There’s a Greek place,” Rigsby pointed out.
“Let’s go somewhere else,” I said. “I’m afraid of terrorists in a Greek place.”
We continued walking and came upon “The Georgetown Cafe.” The sign outside said, Special Today: Roast and Two Vegetables, $3.95.
That’s what I wanted, a good American meal; meat and two vegetables. We went inside and sat down. Our waiter came over. He spoke with an accent from the Middle East someplace. I immediately was concerned.
Camel graces menu
“What are the two vegetables?” I asked him.
“Jes a minute,” he said and walked behind the counter and looked at the vegetables.
“Mashed potato,” he said, and then he called to the cook, “Hey Akbar, vat is dis other vegetable?”
“Beans,” said Akbar from somewhere in the kitchen.
“Bean,” the waiter said to me.
I was somewhat concerned. If a waiter has to ask the cook to identify a dish, there could be a problem with it. I noticed that the menu just said, “roast”; it didn’t say roast what. I also noticed a picture of a camel on the menu. I don’t know what roast camel tastes like, and I wasn’t in the mood to try it.
However, the waiter assured me it was roast beef. So, I went with the roast, mashed potatoes and the somewhat-difficult-to-identify beans.
Rigsby, who originally is from Texas, ordered a bowl of chili.
“You’re making a mistake,” I cautioned him.
“Why?” he asked.
Beans from abroad
“Because there are several rules to follow when ordering in an unfamiliar restaurant,”I replied and quickly named several of them:
1. Never order barbecue in a place that also serves quiche.
2. Never send back food in a place where the cook is wearing a sidearm.
3. Never order anything you can’t pronounce.
4. Never order chili in a place where there is a picture of a camel on the menu.
Rigsby wouldn’t listen to me and ordered chili anyway.
My meal wasn’t all that bad. The reason the waiter had trouble identifying the beans is because these definitely were not indigenous to the Western Hemisphere. I should know, I’ve eaten all kinds of beans in my life.
The mashed potatoes were fair, and the roast beef was quite good.
When the waiter brought out Rigsby’s chili, he said, “This is Akbar’s specialty, chili Middle Eastern style.”
Rigsby told me later the chili was awful, but he ate it anyway after he got a glimpse of Akbar when he walked out of the kitchen.
Another rule: Never turn down the specialty of a man who cooks while wearing a mask.