Monday, 22nd September 2003
What is the name of what you are eating

Huh, excuse me? Food I reply mumbling. It is a nice sunny September day. It is lunchtime at a terrace of het Teylertje (www.teylertje.nl) at the river Spaarne in the Dutch city of Haarlem. I'm in pleasant company: Annet, a bride of the world whom I haven't spoken in a year or two. So, please do not disturb us. We are catching up 2 years here and having lunch at the same time.

The requestor is persistent. No, no, I mean this dish. What is the name? I look up from my plate and see an elderly tourist. "Ragoût with bread". I show him the Dutch name on the menu. I try to close the conversation with a brief But don't worry, order anything. All food is good. But that would have been too easy. His wife joins in.
It often happens to me that people start to ask me questions. I fail to comprehend why they pick me.

I enjoy to bend these short conversations into an unexpected path. The score of this weekend:

Saturday, Train station Amsterdam Sloterdijk, where is platform number seven?
Follow that sign that says '7' madam... But do you realise that the platform number 7 train is southbound? O you are heading to Rotterdam, well what a coincidence, you need to go south!
Saturday, Haarlem, what are you eating?
Saturday, Schiphol airport, is this elevator going to departures?
Yes, would you like to depart? No, we just arrived. O, you are illegally using the departure hall for your arrival? Yes, because it is easier for our son to reach by car.
Sunday evening, train The Hague central towards Arnhem
Is this train Arnhem bound? Most likely madam, for sure it will at least go to Utrecht.
I often feel an urge to answer with some song text lines of Dutch entertainer Wim de Bie: I don't either, have no idea. I don't care, could not care less!

What am I drinking, is the next question, pointing at my Brand Beer (from the Dutch province Limburg). Their accent sounds like something Eastern European. I don't get away with a simple beer. I have to pinpoint it on the menu. Well, I obviously have the looks of a culinary expert. Hm, let me take that as a compliment.

You see, we do not know German and Holland food. The Dutch menu is probably totally incomprehensible for these elderly tourists. A déjà vu eases my mood. I've used their tactics myself in China, where I could not read the map. The thing to do is to look at the dishes of other people, look for something tasteful and order the same thing.

Are there any deserts and starters? Oops, now things get complicated. This is actually a place to drink coffee, ordering a beer is fine too. As lunch you can order a bun, but that is about it. The possibilities of the kitchen are limited.

The questions transform into a real conversation. These two are Russian tourists. I welcome them with the very few Russian words I know. The mood rises to a party level.

We jointly go through the full menu in simplified English. Annet spots a soup of the day as a starter. With great fun I finally recommend the Russian coffee, with rum. I have no clue what rum has to do with Russia, but that does not spoil the fun. That coffee sounds like a fine desert to me.

A bit later they are enjoying their lunch: soup of the day, ragoût with bread and beer.

Afterwards they drop by again to say bye bye. Thank you very much for the dinner. It was very good, Spasiba!
Odd chaps these Russians. I wonder what they'll have for breakfast tonight?

Till next Nut,