Each city seems to have its own quintessential dining experiences. In New York City one of them is the bagel with lox and a shmear of cream cheese. And this morning I had the pleasure of watching a couple visitors trying to acquire such. And they didn’t speak much English. I’ve been in that position many times in many places around the world. Typically I just point at things in the case or on a menu and hope something yummy comes out. That’s not quite as easy to do in the bagel shop and this couple was struggling.
She ordered a “Bagel with salmon and cheese” which, for someone who doesn’t really speak the language is pretty darn close. And the guy behind the counter probably should have known she meant cream cheese. But he wasn’t sure and so asked for clarification, “Cheese or cream cheese?” Alas, our protagonist had no idea what was being asked of her or what to do. I stepped in and answered for her, hoping to help things along. It seemed to work pretty well.
Things got more complicated with the next order: “Bagel with egg.” “Scrambled, fried or egg salad,” came the reply. This was not nearly as easy a situation to figure out. This was also when we determined that they spoke Spanish much better than English. A combination of pointing to egg salad and saying “huevos fritos” managed to get far enough along to a decision. Fortunately they didn’t try to order anything more complicated as my Spanish skills were already being stretched at that point, though I certainly could have helped if they wanted beer.
And so, as I walked home from the shop, I smiled a bit and reminisced about the many similar experiences I’ve had over the years, usually successful but always with a few entertaining misses as well. Like the pizza in Venice with mussels on top, still in the shell. Or one of the many meals in Ukraine or China where I never did figure out what was inside. All part of the joys of travel.
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