Wo bu chi fromage

We went out to se taper une fondue tonight in Grenoble, and have something typically regional and alpine. We went to the Restaurant des Montagnes and ordered our first course before a group of eight Chinese peple came and were seated at the table next to ours. It was evident rather quickly that none of them spoke French, so my mom encouraged me to help them out, as they did speak English. My mom, like Alex, is someone who helps people in trouble. I admire it, but I'm not like them. I'm more likely to just watch, knowing that I could help but being too shy to offer my services.

So I got up and translated the menu and answered questions. The waitresses had clearly not had a Valéry Larbaud education (or maybe they clearly had...), so they spoke almost no English, and I had to give the orders to them as well.

The Chinese were full of questions. Questions like, "Which things on the menu don't have cheese?" Whereas we were in a fondue restaurant. Fondue, raclette, tartiflette... all kinds of cheesy goodness. Here they were, coming from a culture that doesn't eat cheese and often finds it repulsive, trying to find something in a fondue restaurant that would please them.

At one point, the Chinese were upset because they had not been served yet. So it was up to me to translate their displeasure to the waitresses. It was up to me to diplomatically translate between China and France, reminding them that I was only the translator and that no one should shoot the messenger, even if she is American.

Everything worked out pretty okay. One waitress looked like she was ready to posion them and another jokingly begged me not to leave when we'd finished our own dessert. I hope everything went well after we left...

srah - Friday, 21 February 2003 - 4:25 PM
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