Mansaf in Jordan
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Reeking of train and desperately needing food I find my way down an alley ripe with the bouquet of prawns and fowl, and settle on a non-nondescript stall brimming with fresh baguettes and a glass case carefully packed with a rainbow of savory temptations. This is Hanoi. In most situations where language is a barrier, I know to get along by using the “smile-n-point” method. So I point to a white “meatish” mass with the opinion that it is likely chicken. Sandwich prepared, the street matron thrusts it at me and continues her daily preparations. I ease down on a nearby stool and have a go at the sandwich. "Tastes like chicken...must be chicken" From the depths of the stall her son emerges and mimes to me "Drink?" I reply: "Bia." He twists his face. He doesn't understand. "Bia" is widely used to translate "beer" and usually renders some result...I don’t care what kind. In a flash of understanding, he raises his index finger to indicate "just a second", returning a moment later with a smile and a laminated paper in his grasp. He hands me a “Menu”... in English!! I point to "Tiger Beer."
During the ensuing rush of eager bottle jostling and top-popping, I enthusiastically masticate my sandwich and vacantly peruse the menu, eyes wandering between the meager offerings. Opposite "pork liver pâté" was “pigeon.” Knowing what pâté looks and tastes like, I could eliminate that as what was in my mouth. The half-chewed mass became my singular focus and I was certain that the hard bits that I was processing with my molars were not from a chicken. But rather a claw or pieces of scaly pigeon foot...maybe even a beak? I chewed through my shock and swallow hard, recounting the sage advice of my physician: "if it's cooked you don't have anything to worry about.” The beer arrived and I drank heartily. Returning my thoughts to my sandwich I stared at the white meat between the cucumbers and carrots, and told myself "this was pretty darn good before you knew what it was." I weighed my options. “Should you be rude? Chug the beer and go? Or should you finish the remaining one-third of the sandwich because at this rate if you’re going to be sick...you’re going to be sick." If you know me well enough, you know what I did. It was delicious.
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