Tuesday, April 17, 2012
A random conversation about food in Death Valley
I tell them that this is what the United States is: more than 10% of our citizens foreign-born. I live in a city that's more than 40% Asian; Chinese and Vietnamese cuisine are part of our traditional foods. We tell them California was Mexico before it was the United States. Tacos, burritos, enchiladas: this is American food too, at least in California. We leave out that George W. Bush loves tacos.
We give them a few restaurant recommendations for their visit to Berkeley, but they're skeptical; why should they come to the US to eat Japanese food? OK, fine, they're not my concern.
They ask what we do for a living. My friend says he works in the wine industry. I say, "I write about wine and food." She doesn't understand. I say it again, gesturing like I'm drinking and eating. Then I switch to French, and this anecdote becomes about how bad my French sounds.
I say, "J'ecris des histoires sur les vins et [la cuisine.]" I put this in brackets because that's what I intended to say.
She says, "La cousine?" I say, "[La cuisine.]" She says, "La cousine?" I say, "[La cuisine.]" I gesture like I'm going to put something in my mouth. She says, "La cousine?" This little couplet goes on about three more times, and once I lick my lips, trying to indicate deliciousness.
Finally her eyes widen and she says, "Oooooh, la cuisine!" It sounds slightly different from what I was saying; there's a stronger Kwee-ness to the first syllable. But it also sounds, to me, like the same word said by a different person. I stipulate, my French is awful.
She laughs. "You said you write about wines and your cousin. I wonder because you said cousin."
And I wonder, how can one stand atop a really remote mountain at sunset with a guy saying "I write about my cousin, mmmmm" and licking his lips, and not back away rapidly?
Those silly Americans. What a profession!
Posted by W. Blake Gray at 3:11 PM