Sunday, October 04, 2009

A few awkward restaurant visits

The first time I ate a meal alone in Argentina, it was stranger than the other times I had dined there. I wandered into a restaurant at lunchtime and...nothing happened. The waiters did not come greet me, or ask me how many were dining. They just sort of stared. It seemed to happen whenever I dined alone. I found my own table and sat down there, and they proceeded to bring me a menu.

I ordered the hamburguesa. As I waited for the order to come, I saw that I was the only woman in a rather crowded restaurant (I still haven't figured out why, but other women did come in later). What came was a pair of patties with nothing on them, and a pile of fries. No buns, no lettuce, and so on. To order a hamburger as we know it, it's necessary to order the hamburguesa completa.

The napkins are different in restaurants in Argentina. If they bring you a fabric napkin, it's just the same as here, but the paper napkins used at sandwicherías and parillas (grills) are small, tissue paper affairs. They're not very absorbent, except when it comes to grease. They do work very well on grease, but it may take two or three to get the job done.

In fancier restaurants, the kind with cloth napkins, I often received bread with no bread plate. I guess I was just supposed to scatter crumbs all over the tablecloth, or at least that's what I ended up doing. After the meal, I always had to ask for the check. The waiters assume folks want to hang around and talk, otherwise.

The part I missed until I got back is that I was expected to seat myself, which is not the norm in a sit-down restaurant here at home. I felt like a bit of an intruder plunking down in any old seat, but that was exactly what they expected me to do. I only figured it out by asking somebody who lives there, after I got home. Next time I'll know.

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