Sunday, March 27, 2011

They eat horses, don't they?

Is it a dressing room? A shower stall? Or could it be..OMG!
For answers keep reading.

It is a warm April morning and we are walking along the shores of Lake Geneva or Lac Leman as the locals call it (why do we have a different name?). To our south, we see the French Alps. We could see Mount Blanc the day before when we were in Geneva. Beautiful gardens are in bloom despite the time of year; unusual waterbirds cavort along the shore. To our north, lies the city of Lausanne built into an impossibly steep hill with the Old Town way on top. We are staying in the Middle town (in the middle). We took a funicular down to Ouchy, the newest area where the Olympics headquarters are. Nature calls. We walk into a promising public building and open the stall pictured above. Oh look!  They have showers for the people wanting to swim in the lake, my friend says.
Hm. The showerhead  is awfully close to the ground..
Our first stand-up toilet! We would see another a few days later in a village in the Loire Valley that isn't nearly as clean and lacks the water feature.

Everyday, we learn something new. The day before, we especially learned how different American culture can be from where we were. Like when we were checking into our hotel. I had made a reservation for a double room but the lady at the desk is taken back when she sees that my companion is a woman.
I don't have a room with two beds! I assumed you had a husband!
I tell her that I do have a husband but he is thousands of miles away and my friend and I don't mind sharing a bed.
She looks very dubious. Apparently friends never share beds unless.....

A few years later, Steve and I stay at a chain hotel that contains the word "Swiss' Boston. Our room has twin beds. I call up to complain and am told that this is a European hotel (again, we are in Boston) and that's how things are there. I say that I have been to Europe, to  Switzerland no less, and they do indeed have double beds there. Still no double bed for us and the beds we have  are bolted to the ground.

But back to the clerk. She notices my last name and asks if it is German. Although we are in the French speaking section of Switzerland, she apparently is from the German speaking part and says she has a special affinity to those with German names. She of course is assuming I share the same ethnicity of my husband and that our family's working motto is not

We Do NOT Stick To Our Own Kind
(ignoring Anita from West Side Story singing to Maria to stick to her own kind)

My husband's name is German Jewish. I am not sure if she knows that and what kind of difference that would make. I half consider telling her my mother's maiden name, a clearly German name, so maybe she'd like me despite my tolerance for sleeping with women but I don't.

As for my mother's maiden name: remember that Seinfeld episode in which Jerry didn't pay attention to his date's name and now he reached a point in which he can not gracefully ask her What was your name again?
The only hint he has is that it rhymes with a female sexual organ. Mulva? Sagina? He goes through every possibility until at the end when she leaves him hissing..
It's Dolores!!!!
Well my mother's name just doesn't rhyme with a female sexual organ, it is the name of a female sexual organ, although a homonym. I am thankful that I wasn't given it as a middle name instead of my Irish grandmother's maiden name, which was bad enough.

Yep, it is German. I ask directions to a restaurant that I had read about.

We go to the restaurant, a beautiful old stone building in the old section. Its specialties are fondue the train earlier we compared travel notes with an American couple. The woman warns us never, never order anything called faux filet. It's their code name for horse. This is not true, BTW. Later I asked French people about this and it is really sirloin steak.Why the faux name was not explained. Of course I don't know why anyone would eat Mock Turtle soup either.

I try to memorize in advance the names of creatures (or parts of them) I won't eat in whatever language I am dealing with.
C-H-E-V-A-L is on top of the list. Pferd in German though the name itself does not sound appetizing. Cavallo in Italian. (we discovered this was a baby food flavor when we were in Stresa last year: as for more info on their 'ass' eating ways, search: 'donkey stew' in the search area)
It was written clearly on the menu as 'horse' assuming you could read French.
Americans do not eat horses. Indeed as a Mad Men episode featured, they don't want their dogs to eat them either, no matter how wholesome the horses may be.
But we stuck to the fondue, which was tasty, and wine. Of the 5 Moms: 3 of us prefer red wine, the other 2: white. My friend was in luck as she was one of the white preferring moms and all they seemed to have was white wine. After a while, I asked the waitress for some beer as presumably this was also a Swiss specialty (although maybe in the German part). She looked distressed. Did I not pronounce this correctly? I was speaking the French I had learned more than thirty years ago so who knows and she didn't speak English. She said something about having to ask her boss whether or not I could have beer and left. When she returned, she told me that I could NOT have beer, even though it was on the menu and they were not out of it, but I could have more wine. Fine. Alorsplus de vin.

I was wondering if something was lost in translation or maybe I was just violating some unwritten rule. Later, I asked the German loving woman back at the hotel whether ordering beer with fondue was some sort of mistake.

You never drink beer with fondue!!!!!

She said something about it would 'stop me up' if I did, which actually would be welcomed given that using a toilet involved aiming for a hole in the ground.
Back in Ann Arbor, a local restaurant that I love features Cheddar and Ale soup, which is especially tasty. Ms. Swiss Hotel clerk would not approve.

So back here if you ask a waitress for something they personally find revolting like catsup for your real fillet, what do they say?

No problem! 

as they flash their faux smile and fetch it.

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