Tuesday, May 19, 2009

No Hablo Espanol -- Please!

Foreign language instruction in school is a dangerous thing.

Oh, I'm all for sitting through two years of Spanish, French or German — as long as you either use it and get better or forget it completely. But if you're lost in the middle, you arrive in Barcelona, Spain and do really stupid things.

Like wander into a tapas bar and order paella negro. Heck, they even translated it for me as "dirty rice" right there on the menu. Which, of course, means "black beans and rice" for people like me who last sweated a Spanish exam in 1979 and think we still recall what was on that culture test.

Ask any counter person at Qdoba — Julie Sturgeon loves black beans and rice.

So naturally I said Sí — and 10 minutes later was staring down an unbelievably smelly skillet of rice, some kind of black coating and a big crawdad smack in the middle with mussels spread around as a bonus. I stared at it for a good three minutes trying to find the courage to stick my fork in that mess, steering around what looked like a dead cockroach, and take a bite. It was about as far from black beans and rice as you could get. Merde -- whoops. That's French, the only word I managed to pick up from my college roommate's vast store of foreign language knowledge.

I managed to tolerate about 6 bites, but the fact my husband was enjoying a nice chicken and a belly laugh the entire time wasn't helping. I finally coaxed half his chicken from his plate to mine, using the threat that I'd have to spend still more money filling up on the one word I could translate in that city if he didn't: Dunkin Donuts.

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