slow dinners, part 3

The next night saw us spend another three hours at table at a winery (whose name I now forget) above Lugano. Here I jokingly blamed the leisurely pace of the service on the patently inadequate four-burner stove visible in the open kitchen, but really most of what we saw the servers engaged in was plating and presentation.

Much more of the conversation focused on the meal this time, in particular the largely incomprehensible FYI menu. Since I was able to understand about a third of the printed words, I became our table’s voice of what to expect next. (Water) buffalo carpaccio with stuffed squash blossoms. Stuffed with what? Mushrooms, maybe? Ok, no, sottobosco is apparently a type of soft cheese… And then a little zucchini lasagna—hmm, lasagna must just mean “layered.” Now some part of some kind of game bird wrapped in some kind of leaf, with little crispy bread things. I might have been linguistically fatigued by that point, as J-P pointed out, “Pancetta croccante is ‘little crispy bread things,’ really? Really?” The dish, when it arrived, had neither.

The rest of it, so far as I was able to specify, was right. How I knew that faraona signified a game bird is a mystery to me. I thought at the time that it must be cognate to the Spanish for pheasant, but it’s not; that’s faisán. Nor is it guinea fowl (guinea) or quail (cordoníz). How I knew any of those, when the only game my family ate was venison, I don’t know. Maybe there’s a French cognate buried deep in my memory; maybe there’s a poetic English term that’s similar to faraona; maybe it was a lucky guess.

Together with Serden (who could have eaten everything on the menu, if we had only known), the squash blossoms provided comic relief. Olga was the first to notice the half dozen piled on Serden’s plate. When he told her he was not actually vegetarian, she sounded aggrieved. “You’re not vegetarian? How come you got so many squash blossoms, then?” They were pretty good…


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