I Speak Food



If someone were to speak to me in almost every foreign language I doubt I would understand anything they say. Now I did take French and go to school in France, but that was back when I drank. I know that my French was much better after a glass of wine, but after three glasses no one understood me in any language.


I am a little better at reading foreign languages as long as they are a Latin based alphabet. I am not saying I could read literature, but if you give me a menu I can usually figure out what the food is. This is not based on my knowledge of many languages, but more on my total immersion in food.


Today I was shopping at the local Asian market, Li Ming where I was the only gringo in the place. I was looking for a certain type of vinegar and since most of the labels are in characters I can not tell are Chinese or Korean I had to use my in depth knowledge of food to figure out, without actually opening the bottles.


One problem I have when shopping at Li Ming is that they do their merchandising based on the manufacture and not the item. This means that if you are looking for Hoisin Sauce it appears on ten or twelve different shelves all over the store. So when trying to find lemongrass vinegar I could not just stand in the vinegar section and compare one bottle to the next. I had to roam the store just figure out if their were any vinegars made by each manufacture and then see if I could find a picture of a lemongrass stalk on the bottle.


Despite my menu reading talent I was unable to learn to read Korean today. I finally broke down and asked a woman wearing rubber gloves who worked in the store. Her command of English was about as good as my Mandarin. A smile and a head shaking was all I got. Then I went to see the fishmonger in the store, figuring he had to interact with customers so maybe he could speak English. Yes, on a little English, no on knowing where anything was, he was the fish guy.


Finally I did what I always do when I can’t find a prepared food item I am looking for I decided to make it myself. I bought rice vinegar and some fresh lemon grass and brought it home to steep. One of the skills in speaking food is being able to figure out a work around when all else fails you. Too bad Carter gave up taking Chinese two years ago, not that I think she ever learned the character for lemongrass or vinegar, but maybe she could have talked to the lady in the rubber gloves for me.

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