In the US, there’s a saying: The Customer Is Always Right.
In Hungary, there seems to be a different saying: The Customer Is Never Right.
I was visited by a few other English teachers this weekend, and we went out for dinner last night. We went to the very good restaurant that’s really close to my apartment. The menu is in Hungarian, but with our combined knowledge (and the waiters equivalent of English) we were able to get food that we wanted.
Well, we were able to ORDER it…
I ordered chicken that had cheese and peaches on top of it. It sounded really good and tasted even better. Potato croquettes were suggested to compliment it, and they were perfect. I also decided to order a vegetable.
This is where I overstepped my boundaries.
Cucumbers are one of my favorite vegetables, so I love to have a cucumber salad with my meal. I asked for this and the waiter winced. I immediately knew I was in trouble. He slowly, patiently translated my main dish for me thinking I didn’t understand what it was. Then he explained to me that I was trying to order cucumber salad with it. I hope that my frustrated expression appeared to be one of surprise.
Having experienced this before, I knew I was fighting a losing battle. I asked what he suggested instead, and he read the menu with great consideration. “Here,” he said, “peach salad.”
Great. My chicken with cheese and peaches comes with a side of peaches. Maybe they’re special peaches that are very different from the ones on the chicken. Maybe they’re really good. Maybe there’s something I don’t understand that will make me excited when I get them.
No. It was a bowl of canned peaches that seemed to be the exact same as those on my chicken.
I really like the Hungarian method of ordering all parts of your meal separately instead of having it pre-arranged for you. If you hate mashed potatoes, you never have to get mashed potatoes. It eliminates having undesirable food giving you a dirty look from the corner of your plate.
The big question, though, is how do I order the food I do want? Should I start by ordering the cucumber salad and ask what I’m allowed to have accompany it?
It’s another great mystery of Hungarian life. There is comfort in the fact that the waiters look out for your well-being, but sometimes I just want cucumbers instead of more peaches. I don’t care if it goes together, I want a green vegetable.
Too bad, Alex, you might as well enjoy your peaches. Come to think of it, they were really good.
Hungarian word of the day:
The pronunciation of this is too difficult for me to write out, so I won’t even try. It means Peach Salad. Don’t worry, though, you don’t have to memorize it. The choice will be made for you. All you have to do is eat and enjoy!