Saturday, January 3, 2009

Soy Sauce

By Louise

OMG. If I am served one more bife de chorizo I will explode. Sure, Andrew loves it, but I've had enough. I crave culinary variety. I need spice. I need vegetables. So, in a moment of sheer foodie desperation, I did what any former New Yorker would do: I sent the children to the apartment lobby to collect menus.

What they brought back made me weep with joy: Chinese menus!

We spent 30 minutes poring over menus. How great was this, translating a Chinese menu written in Spanish into English? We decided on numbers 6 (wonton empanada), 33 (pollo chow mein), 47 (pollo de General Tao's), and 58 (verdura saltada). The next task: phoning in the order. Determined to be in control of this moment, I wrote down everything I would say, right down to spelling out the numbers phonetically. And, to really make things easy, I planned to say that we would pick up the order, because the thought of arranging a delivery was simply mind-boggling.

I placed the call. The woman who picked up was clearly Chinese, not a porteno. This was going to be a whole different bowl of noodles. Now two of us were speaking a language that wasn't our first. I felt my palms start to sweat, but I stuck to my plan. I needed those noodles.

I read my prepared script, I shushed my ll's ordering the pollo chow mein, I hit the "v" in verdura correctly. I could tell my family was impressed. The woman repeated my order. Could things really be moving so smoothly? I gave the kids a thumbs up and gave her my name, saying I would pick up the order. The kids were high-fiving. Andrew was doing a little dance. And then she asked for my address. No, I replied, I am picking the order up. No, she insisted, again demanding my address. Back and forth we went, with me explaining that I would pick up the food, and with her asking where we wanted it delivered. I could hear her frustration growing as her Spanish diminished. My own thoughts were becoming more jumbled than a bowl of lo mein.

The children were silent, recognizing that I had entered the conversation danger zone. I wanted to hang up, but I couldn't. I had to complete the call. I wanted the noodles. By now, the woman was shouting pretty loudly. I held the phone away from my ear. I wasn't even sure she was speaking Spanish anymore. So I shouted back, "No hablo ingles!" I have no idea what possessed me to say that. Probably the same thing that caused me to respond "dos" when asked what my name was earlier in the week. My kids were laughing at me now.

I took a deep breath and, in the absolutely worst Spanish ever, I told her for the last time that I would be by to pick up the order shortly. Twenty minutes later, I walked into the restaurant, struck a dramatic pose, and said, "Soy Orlando."(I am Orlando) The woman looked up at me and said, "Soya? Soya dos pesos mas!" And then she asked me what I wanted to order.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ay,Ay. Que problema .Trials of a language barrier. Could you have placed order in store directly to get your noodles ? At least you know the Spanish and Chinese for soy .