Monday, March 07, 2011

But you said this was vegetarian?!!

I should probably not share this story because it shows what an idiot I can be but what the hell, it's funny.

Once upon a time...actually in 2006, I was working in Germany for the prestigious FIFA World cup 2006 project. I was just a young man then and had so much enthusiasm for learning new things and acquiring new skills. Since, we (myself and a couple of colleagues) were living in a hotel we used to go out quite often, as it got us away from the humdrum routine of eating packaged, ready-to-eat Indian food in our hotel room.

This one time we went to the little mall-type place situated under the Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof (Frankfurt Main Railway Station). We saw a pizza shop and decided to try it. I had been boning up on German language (I knew none when I went there the first time), and by now I thought I could order a pizza in Deutsche. (While we call both of them German in English language, the German word for German language is Deutsche and for a German man it would be Deutscher pronounced doe-itch and doe-itch-ay).

My colleague was also Indian but she was not vegetarian. So her ordering was simple. She just pointed to a pizza she liked and ordered a slice. These pizzas were the huge, industrial-size type where you ordered a slice not a whole pizza unless you had your 3 wives and 19 children with you to help you!

When it was my turn I cleared my throat and started in with my fantastic (I thought so) German, while keeping my East Delhi accent.

Me: "Haben Sie vegetarisch pizza?" (Do you have vegetarian pizza?"
The girl at the counter: "Ja. Das ist vegetarisch." (Yes, this is vegetarian.) She pointed to one.
Me: "Ja. Eine, bitte und eine Cola Light." (Yes, one please. And a Diet Coke).

I was pleased as a dog who's just landed a flying saucer when I joined my colleague at a table with my winnings from the purely German encounter!

The pizza was exquisite!

I liked it so much that I decided to get one slice wrapped up for later. I was addicted to internet chatting during that period and usually got peckish about 1 AM or so.

I went to the girl, pointed to the same pizza and asked for another slice.

She nodded, "Ja. Fisch?"

I shook my head, "Nein. Vegetarisch."

She shook her head, "Nein, das ist fisch!"

"What??", my mind went into a tailspin and I very quickly forgot the few words of German that I knew! This girl was telling me that this pizza was not vegarian but Fish! I recalled with distress that every time I told a German friend that I was vegetarian their first question was, "So do you eat fish?". For Germans Fish is vegetarian!

I tried again, "But you said this was vegetarian?!!"

She nodded, "Ja. Ja. Vegetarisch."

I had a sinking feeling in my gut now, "But you are saying this is fish?!"

She nodded again, "Ja, ja, fisch."

I was thinking if it'd be okay if I killer her a little bit. But I couldn't because she was being so sweet and polite. It wasn't her fault she didn't know a word of Englisch! My friend's German was limited to pointing at things and holding up her fingers for quantity so no use asking her to pitch in!

Finally, with the help of a LOT (and I mean a LOT!) of hand gestures and some slow and repeated German, the girl explained to me that the pizza I had ordered was indeed Vegetarisch, but it was sold out between then and now, and she had replaced it with a pizza that contained fish.

Oh my god! I breathed a 2.3 miles long breath of relief and thanked her sincerely for explaining all that to me!

To this day, whenever I think about that incident, I can't help but smile. I am not likely to ever forget when I had vegetarian pizza German style!

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