Pointing at things can be dangerous.



I’m in Germany. So this is a short post, because I just spent 12 hours smiling at people for work. (Did you know that I basically start every post with the words “This is a short post, because…” and then have to delete it later, when it’s like 1,000 words long? edit: this one’s not that short either. I should have deleted this part.) So yeah.

I’m in a tiny little town where English is not super prevalent. A few people speak it, but certainly not everybody, and they don’t feel the need to translate all their signs and documents or…anything…into English. Which is kind of cool, because  we’re in another country, after all.

I got into my hotel room pretty late the other night after kind of a rough day of travel (but not as rough as this one), and I was hungry. The restaurant connected to my guesthouse wasn’t open, so I was on my own, which I really like sometimes. The nice German guesthouse owners pointed me in the direction of a different restaurant: “Just around de corner, to de left.”

So I went around the corner, to the left. The chef poked his head out of the kitchen to speak a few English words and ask if I was there to eat, and yes, actually, I was.

The waitresses smiled and nodded and pointed at a table, handed me a menu—a German menu—and disappeared.

Just a little background: I don’t know more than five words in German. I know how to say “thank you,” “you’re welcome” and “with”. That’s it. Oh, and “hello,” because it sounds almost the same.

I guess that’s really all the background you need.

I knew there was nothing I could do except randomly choose something and hope for the best, so I pointed, and the waitress repeated it, as if this would help me understand what I was ordering, and I said yes and smiled and nodded, and it was done.

I watched the people around me receive their soup, their salad, their beers and their main courses with sides and sauces and dessert. It all looked fantastic. I was excited.

I had received my water (sparkling, which I should have expected, but didn’t), when the waitress finally returned.

She set the plate in front of me. This is what I saw:


Okay, that picture might be an exaggeration. It was in strips, and it was cooked. But it was liver. Calf liver.

I’ve never had liver before, and I didn’t know that’s what it was at the time, but I knew there was something…just…wrong…as soon as I put it in my mouth. It was rich, but it was slimy and fatty and mushy and it melted as you ate it. And not in a good way. People were not meant to eat that.

After one bite, I didn’t think I could eat any more. I tried to judge how much I could leave on my plate without being unbelievably rude. The answer was probably “none,” but I knew I couldn’t do that. Piece by piece, I put it in my mouth, chewed, tried not to gag, imagined that it was just really fatty beef, and swallowed. I learned that if I stretched my throat open and kind of swallowed it like a pill, I didn’t get as close to throwing up.

I was so happy for my sparkling water, which I didn’t even like first. It saved me in the end.

I ate about 80 percent of it, if you can believe that. 80 percent of a huge pile of liver is pretty good. And I spread the rest around my plate like a little kid so it looked like I had eaten even more, so, I’m sure that fooled everyone. I just kept telling myself that I was a grown-up, and that grown-ups don’t gag on their food or spit it out in cloth napkins in public..

The waitress kept coming by to ask me how it was. Of course, I told her I loved it SO MUCH, and that it was SO GOOD, and she looked very pleased. She was probably watching me on secret camera in the back and laughing at the foreigner who was trying to choke down a bunch of liver and be nice about it. I’m sure it was hilarious.

I went back to my guesthouse with a sad face and a sick stomach and ate a whole bag of chocolate-covered pomegranate seeds that I bought in the Atlanta airport. It almost made up for it. Almost.

The lesson is, eating calf liver by accident might give you a story to tell, but it may also make you throw up in a nice restaurant while waitresses laugh at you behind your back. So if your idea of being awesome in a foreign country does not involve puking and offending lots of people, maybe don’t point so fast at stuff you don’t understand. Just a suggestion.

Have you ever eaten anything really awful on accident? Or on purpose, because you’re cool like that? I don’t think I’ll ever eat a bug, by the way. Bugs are icky.


20 thoughts on “Pointing at things can be dangerous.

  1. For my first meal in Germany I ordered a sausage salad, which I thought sounded interest. But when it came out it was actually a pile of small pieces of bologna in a cold broth with raw onions all over it. It was served with bread that tasted like black licorice. And of course, sparkling water (or “gas water” as someone told me). I pretty much hated everything on the plate.
    Now I try to learn how to say “I want that one” and when I go to restaurants I”ll just point at what someone else is eating. Or I try to pick a restaurant that has pictures on the menu.

  2. So sorry. Maybe look up a few food words before your next foray into German cuisine? Just a practical thought. It won’t be as good of a story, but . . . well, you could just stick with the pictures at the Eis Cafe.

  3. I foolishly ordered iced tea in Germany and was served a cup of hot tea with an ice cube on the side! Now I know better!! Once I ordered salad to go at an Italian Deli in Kansas City, returned to my conference, and took a bite of my salad in the dark. I nearly gagged on a forkful of anchovy! I liked liver when i was in high school and made a mysterious liver meatloaf for my family without telling them it was liver. It was yukky, even to me!

  4. I should have made you eat liver when you were a kid, so you would be ready for this eperience. Sorry you weren’t fully prepared! 🙂 –Mom

  5. Where in Germany are you? And yes…I fortunately haven’t had that experience yet, but I have a friend who ordered ox snout salad one time…if I don’t know, I stay away from the meat. It’s safer that way.

  6. Pingback: Here comes blimpie. | Who Stole My Baby?

  7. Sounds character building, Lisa. Something similar happend to me in Japan. I and another “round eye” (that’s what the waiter called us) went info a huge underground mall for dinner. All the dishes in the restaurant window were wonderfully tempura fried. How could you go wrong with batter, hot oil and anything? Well, we went with the aforementioned blindly point to the menu item strategy. What we got had no batter, it had not even dipped a toe in hot oil let alone come into contact with anything above room temperature, and I’m pretty sure it was still doing the oxygen exchange thing. It kind of crinkled and popped between the molars and judging by the effort, actually fought being swallowed. I never had much of a desire to find out what we had for dinner that night…

  8. Ox tail, chicken feet, and curry goat.

    I realize curry goat is not that weird, but there was a piece of meat on the plate that was oddly…. Penis shaped. And…. I ate it. I was in Jamaica and didnt want to be rude.

    Oh, and an okra shake. I liked it because I like okra an im weird…. The Jamaicans we were with didn’t tell me okra shakes were used as laxatives until after I finished the whole thing because our group of 30 people thought it was nasty. That was fun.

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