Tweet Keeping with the Australian theme (unless you're absolutely traumatized by yesterday's post), today we tackle food & food etiquette.
Remember, I was a shy, nervous 10 year-old, travelling around a foreign country without my mother. Technically my father was there, but he was busy visiting old family and friends - like the Fosters and the Four X's (hint: XXXX in beer label) - and didn't really pay attention to the fact that it was his job to explain every little detail of what to expect to his anxiety ridden daughter. For instance, he should have forewarned me that the second I asked for ketchup I'd be asked to repeat it over and over and over again for no significant reason. (Around the 27th repetition I figured out they call it tomato sauce and ketchup is just a really silly word they liked to hear me say.) Then there's that whole biscuit is a cookie and french fries are chips but chips are crisps and well, it's utterly exhausting to be speaking the same exact words that have such different meanings to the people you are talking to.
I figured my best bet would be to stick with what I knew: Give me a cheeseburger! What would you like on it? Oh, let's make it easy - give me everything. But the cheeseburger I was expecting - with ketchup, mustard, lettuce, onion and pickle - showed up with all sorts of stuff on it, including a sliced beet, fried egg, slice of pineapple and bacon. Hey, Dad! A little warning here wouldn't hurt. Thankyouverymuch.
My mother taught me well, though. From an early age we were taught that you always eat what is on your plate. To do so is to waste food and wasting is not something you should be proud of. Our proudest accomplishment as children was when we visited our great-grandparents of Dutch descent, where we were treated to a deadly version of a pancake. It tasted like cardboard. And nylons. And like good little children we ate every last bit. (Ask my parents: they will both swear under oath how truly awful that food was.) And so I ate every bit of that very bizarre Australian burger. (Okay. Not really. I hid the beet in a napkin and tossed the sucker. I mean, really. A beet?)
And so, I proudly took my training with me over to the Australian Grandmother's house, where I was presented with a plate of food, overflowing with tasty morsels, a plate piled so high with food I thought I'd never see the bottom of it... but I did it. Spoonful by spoonful I ate. I ate and ate and ate until my stomach ached. But I finished it. I proudly put my flatware on the plate and smiled from ear to ear. They would be so proud! The little American finished her plate of food just like a good guest should.
Without a word my grandmother stood, walked around the table, picked up my plate and went into the kitchen. When she reappeared she had the plate in her hand. With more food piled on it. And she was walking in my direction. And dropped it on the table in front of me.
There was more food. To eat. But I couldn't eat it. I had already eaten more than was comfortable.
But I couldn't let my dad down. I didn't want to embarrass him in front of his family. And so I ate.
Each bite going slower. Each bite fighting down the urge to vomit. Each bite willing my stomach to not explode. Please, Lord, just let me be able to finish this food. I don't want to waste it.
My eyeballs were bulging. My arm getting heavy in its subconscious attempt to stop the gorging. Yet I fared on. I would not let my parents down! I would not waste this food! I was a warrior and I would prevail! And hopefully I would not vomit all over this table in my attempt to do so.
After what seemed to be a lifetime I finally managed to send the last bite of food down my esophagus. Granted, it didn't really go anywhere, just hung out at the back of my throat - but that damn plate was empty.
And with that my grandmother stood once again. Stalked to my chair. Picked up my plate. And stomped back into the kitchen muttering the entire way. I was confused. My 10-year old mind was telling me this is what mommy acted like when we destroyed her favorite antique buffet table and this was not what I thought happy, proud grown-ups acted like when well-trained little kids finished everything on their plate. Where was the clapping? The cheers of "good job!" and "what a good girl!"
And so I watched in horror as my grandmother stomped back towards me from the kitchen with another. plate. of. food. slamming it on the table in front of me.
Hey, Dad. You know what would've been great? If you had told me that it was considered an insult to finish everything on your plate because it was basically telling your hostess she sucked at providing you enough food the first go around. Yeah, that would've been helpful.