My work colleagues and I went to a restaurant where they cater to the local people; grow their own food, etc… This however makes the idea of menus kind out of the question. The menu is entirely in the owner’s skull, I think he just makes it up as he goes along. Fortunately for us, one of my colleagues was fluent in Spanish. Soon the owner came by and the translations commenced.
Let’s start with some drinks. After we insisted that we didn’t want wine, which the owner thought unthinkable, we settled on soft drinks and water. After all this is lunch and we had to get back to work. I asked for a coke and one of my colleagues asked for a Fanta orange. He came back about five minutes later with glasses and two huge bottles of soda. I have never seen 2.2 liter bottles before; I guess he thought we were thirsty.
Now it was time for serious discussion. The owner went through all the dishes with our translator Erica, she in turn described the options to us, we asked for clarification and round and round we go. This took a long time as the owner was quite animated and described how each dish was made, where the food was grown, and which wine went best with which dish. We had to remind him we didn’t want any wind. In fact we kind of need to speed up this process, it took a while getting to this place and had to get back to work eventually. Then we found out that he was just describing the first course.
It took about a half an hour of serious discussion to settle on what to eat. It felt like a negotiation with the owner, he was determined to convince us of what he wanted to serve rather than serve us what we wanted. Everyone else in the restaurant was drinking wine. We were the only ones with giant bottles of coke on the table. I ordered soup (pinto beans with sausage and onions) others ordered salad. My soup showed up in a huge bucket with a serving spoon. For the main course one of my colleagues ordered hamburger and I ordered a taco. Mostly I was curious about the difference between a Taco in Spain and a Taco in Colorado. The soup was excellent.
About a half an hour later the main dishes arrived. No one got anything like what they ordered, except our translator. I became suspicious. I got pork shoulder with a side of boiled potatoes; it couldn’t be further than what I thought was a taco. The burger my colleague ordered was a flat piece of meatloaf with potato wedges and olives. I got the feeling that he just served us what was already made figuring that we wouldn’t care. So far we are an hour and a half into lunch. We needed to get back to work. So we didn’t complain, just ate lunch. Most of the other tables are about half way through a bottle of wine, each.
Once done with eating and ready to leave things seemed to slow down. Each time a person came into the restaurant the owner would go over to their table and commence to describing each and every item on the menu, which existed only in his head. I figure it didn’t matter anyway; he would bring whatever food was done anyway. We were trying to flag him down for a check so we could get back to work. Others in the restaurant were finishing their first bottle of wine and ordering the main course. So far it’s been about two hours since we left work for lunch.
Next thing we know the owner is coming by with arm loads of tasty deserts. We said that we were full and didn’t want any desert; we just need to get out of there. At least I hope that is what we said; it seemed to take a lot of careful discussion on Erica’s part to convey the message. I got the feeling that he was quite astonished that we not only didn’t want wine, but refused desert as well. In no particular hurry we somehow managed to pay for the food and make it to the parking lot without wine or desert.
Lunch only cost 40eu for the four of us. We were there for over two hours, so I figure that it only cost us about five euros per hour each for the food and show. The show was watching Erica struggle with conveying what we wanted. Apparently there are a lot of differences in Spanish between Spain and Colorado. Some of the gaps were apparently difficult to bridge.
This is far too leisurely a pace for a work lunch for me. The food was wonderful, however I next time I am going to stick to the Cafeteria for lunch. I am sure that some people have all afternoon to eat and take a siesta, but I just need a short snack to get through the day. I guess it’s just a cultural thing.
Oh, and I took the two liters of coke I had left over back to my hotel with me. I hate to see that much coke go to waste.