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17 September 2012 / leggypeggy

The art of ordering in a restaurant

Bologna and cheese sandwiches

Bologna and cheese sandwiches—on a croissant-like bun. Delish!

The other night Poor John and I stopped at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant for dinner. We’d had a big lunch, so weren’t very hungry. There was no menu and the sign out the front listed a whole bunch of Ecuadorean dishes we didn’t recognise.

The waiter/owner didn’t speak ANY English and neither did any of the other customers. So with hand signals, smiles and a smattering of Spanglish, we ‘ordered’ something small and light, along with a grande (large) beer and a black coffee.

He responded with 30 seconds of Spanish chatter, accompanied by understanding nods, smiles and more hand signals that included an approving thumbs-up for the beer order.

Then he dashed out the door and returned soon with a packet of the white cheese that is so popular in Ecuador. He probably bought it at the small shop next door. Hmmm, now we were curious. What had we ordered? What were we getting?

But the suspense ended soon enough. In a few minutes, we were presented with the Ecuadorean version of bologna and cheese sandwiches, which were on croissant-like buns and delicious.

And the total bill was $3.75.

We had lots of similar experiences in Africa. Sometimes we didn’t know what we’d ordered and other times we got something that was nothing like what we ordered.

An episode in Ethiopia stands out. A few of us took a side trip to some towns in northern Ethiopia. We stopped in a rather large restaurant for lunch. Andy (who joined us for lunch) was keen for a burger. Even though they were pictured on the menu, there was no listing, so he settled on something else.

I can’t remember what Poor John ordered, but I chose a special omelet. When our meals arrived, I was given a plate with four miniature hamburgers on it. Andy’s eyes glazed over with envy and I said ‘hang on, I ordered a special omelet.’ And the waiter turned, smiled and said, ‘Ah yes, that is a special omelet.’

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