Interpreting Menus

Traveling, although wonderful, always brings with it a long list of challenges. How to get around, what to see, and, that all important task, where to find public restrooms, just to name a few. Another setting that calls for resourcefulness comes the moment you’re handed a menu in a restaurant. Creativity in such situations comes in handy, especially since it is often all you’ve got to work with! Of course, sometimes an overactive imagination can lead you astray. I’ll never forget the time my husband and I ordered something with Rahm in a Swiss-German café, thinking we were about to be served a lamb dish. Were we ever surprised when muesli with whipped cream showed up at our table! A dictionary would’ve really helped prevent our bitter disappointment that night. Cereal for dinner, yikes!

 It can’t be easy for foreign visitors to eat out in the United States either. Just think of all of the mysterious food items we have to offer. Surf and Turf immediately comes to mind, as do mac and cheese, BLTs, and club sandwiches. For their part, French menus have no shortage of idiosyncrasies. The fact that, when you’re in the mood for a nice chicken breast, for example, you’ll no doubt skip right over suprême de volaille on the menu in your search for that perfectly fine and obvious French 101 word poulet. When in doubt, better to ask the server. Poulet? would work.

Naturally, we’ve gotten used to many of these, shall we say, peculiarities of French cuisine over the years. One area that still trips us up occasionally is when we try to order fish. To our credit, we usually know that what is being offered IS a kind of fish. Hooray for us! Some are easy: sole and sardines, for instance. Truite and saumon for trout and salmon don’t pose much of a problem, either. Others, like daurade (sea bream) and bar (sea bass), take some reflection. The real problem lies in species that we’ve never even heard of. One fish that always seems to be around is something called Saint-Pierre. No, not St. Peter, but as the dictionary tells us John Dory. Say what? Just the other day I came upon the word seigle. Having a sense of adventure I ordered what turned out to be cuttlefish, a relative of squid, which fortunately I like.

But, hey, that’s one of the pluses of taking a trip…trying new things, stepping out of your comfort zone for a while. And that’s exactly what we’re planning to do on our latest excursion.

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Alex said...

Let's not forget the fact that "entrée" means "main course" in English and "appetizer" in French

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