Chicken byriani, saag, green onion raita, cranberry chutney, pappad
From Trafalgar Square, walk toward St. Martin-in-the-Fields and you’ll find a small side street. A black marble statue of Oscar Wilde reclines there, the crazy old cat staring up at the stars from the gutter. We bought hot baps from Porky’s: ham, camembert, and pineapple on a fluffy white bun. We took them back to sit with Oscar and poke fun at the passersby, something we felt he would appreciate. A middle-aged bald man stopped by to explain the correct procedure. “Lean down as if you’re having a conversation, see. If you share a smoke or a drink, he likes that even better. Cheers to you.”
I do not have a picture to share. Imagine a dusky pub at sunset. You’re tired. You’ve got a crick in your neck from trying to sleep on the flight from Hartsfield-Jackson to Heathrow. You sip a pint and look forward to a steaming plate of comfort food: linguine with prawns for you, chicken tortellini for Husband.
When your linguine arrives, it is not in the wide white bowl you imagined. Instead, it’s in a cereal-sized, cream colored crock. The prawns are not the prawns you imagined. Instead, they are snagged bits of crayfish. The linguine is not the linguine you imagined. Instead, it is salad greens.
Husband’s chicken tortellini is a quesadilla.
Okay, you’re in a different country. Perhaps there is a language barrier, you consider, staring at your plates as the waitress moves off to another task. But wait, you think, this is England. There is not a language barrier.
Husband offers to take care of it. He walks back up the bar, motioning back to your table. You see the waitress nod, look over at the table, shake her head, and then point to the menu. Husband comes back, sits down, picks up his fork.
“She says that’s what we ordered. Linguine and tortellini,” he says.
You assure him there is no country on earth where linguine is a bowl of salad and tortellini is a quesadilla, and make him try again. That’s what he does.
Eventually, a manager gets involved. He puzzles it out with the kitchen staff, unseen hermits who live in the basement below the pub and send up apparently random food choices through the dumbwaiter. It is revealed that at some point, at some time in the pub’s history, someone had ordered the linguine but asked for the prawns served on salad instead of pasta, with crayfish instead of prawns. Perhaps it was Meg Ryan. Anyway, the kitchen started serving it that way on a regular basis. They apologized, and one pint later the waitress brought over a platter of saucy noodles draped with pink prawns.
No explanation for the quesadilla. Husband said it was delicious.