Saturdays and Sundays are often days where I would grab lunch with the Noctonals, to recount the adventures of the previous night and make plans for the upcoming day.
For my first Saturday in Buenos Aires, I headed to a local cafe (my neighborhood is full of nice-looking restaurants) for brunch. The cafe was very elegant, with a great bar, excellent menu and only a block from my front door.
As soon as I sat down, the mozo, waiter, came up to me and asked, "English?" to which I replied "Si, pero estoy practicando mi español," to which he congratulated me on my accent and gave me his full-life story. I may be getting better at understanding what people are saying, but still no clue what my mozo was telling me.
After perusing the drink and food menus, I ordered agua mineral sin gas (I hate fizzy water, but love carbonated soft drinks, one of life's great mysteries.), an empanada de lomo and an ensalada de ceasar.
The empanada arrived first, and was so delicious, filled with beef and egg and onion.
Then the salad was delivered. It looked delicious, a large glass bowl filled with big leafy greens, slices of grilled chicken and shards of aged Parmesan. The mozo tossed it at the table and left me to dig in.
I helped myself to a forkful of lettuce and chicken, and started chewing when I noticed something was very, very wrong. So wrong that I had to spit out my mouthful of salad into my napkin.
I was eating fish.
I wasn't born yesterday when it comes to ceasar salad dressings; I know the good ones are made with anchovies. But the beauty of it is that you can never really taste the fishiness when you're eating the salad.
The same couldn't be said for my salad at lunch. The dressing was straight up fish mayonnaise.
Every piece of food in the salad bowl was swimming in creamy fish mucus, and if I couldn't swallow one bite, there was no way I'd put a noticeable dent in the serving. There was no place to hide the evidence that I would not be completing this meal, and I immediately started reviewing phrases in Spanish to explain to the mozo why I wasn't touching the salad.
The mozo came by a couple of times to check on me, but finally he noticed I wasn't eating the salad, and asked me if anything was wrong.
I replied, "A mi no me gustan las verduras,"my attempt at my dad's standard joke, "I'm trying to hold back on my veggies."
He didn't understand that I was joking, so I explained that I was full and couldn't finish. I was worried he would be insulted, and I did not want to alienate the mozo at what I hoped would be a favorite neighborhood cafe.
My fears were put to rest when he brought me the check and asked me, in Spanish, how many girlfriends I have. I told him I had many, but he gave me a joking look and said,
"No, you only have one. But me? I have four girlfriends."
We shared a laugh (his genial, mine rather nervous) and left me to pay the bill. I hadn't insulted him too badly, it seemed, and I knew I would be coming back, although steering clear of the dreaded ensalada de ceasar.