Monday, October 26, 2009

Unravelling the Ravioli Mystery

You'll forgive the rather obvious photo I selected for today's post, but I just wanted to make sure that everyone was on the same culinary page before I begin tippy-tapping away. It's ravioli. Are we all in agreement? - excellent. Let's press on ...

Recently, a colleague & his wife suggested we have lunch together at a restaurant they had just discovered in Bustling Downtown Izmit. Although foreign food restaurants are woefully unknown in these parts of Turkey - apart from Burger King, McDonalds & Domino's, the representatives of American cuisine - we were assured that this place had an eclectic menu with lots of vegetarian options. Given that we live in Bustling Downtown Izmit and they live in The Middle of Nowhere, we were not a little incredulous that curious how such a place had escaped our notice.

It turns out it hadn't. It was a café well known to us, whose staff redefines surly, whose service refines lethargic and whose food redefines dreck. Another colleague of ours is smitten by the place - which she lovingly calls the Cami Café. Cami - pronounced as in peanut butter and jammy - is Turkish for mosque and it is, indeed, right smack dab next door to the city's largest and loudest mosque which doesn't always make for an ambient dining experience. Allah may be great but the café isn't. Our best and only theory is that her hard-on for the place is due to a previous rotation of marginally less mediocre waiters, long replaced by the indifferent & incompetent louts now on staff, and the fact that she is one of the dimmest people we have ever met.

In a word, we hate the Cami Café and have long since stopped going there; however, that day we had no option but to go, if only so that our other colleagues could - and would - see it for the craphole restaurant it really is. And it is. Unless it had changed. Which we
doubted. Besides, it was their suggestion.

Allow me to fast forward. Our colleagues order some dead animal dish while I, playing it safe (had I not been there before?) order a cheese pizza. Mr. This Cat's (Not) Abroad foolishly bravely orders the Four Cheese Ravioli. We feel smugly confident in our meal selections as our menus are printed in Turkish and English, the words pizza and ravioli translate directly into Turkish as pizza and ravioli, and just for good measure - this is the Cami Café after all, we point at the Turkish words as we place our order. Twenty minutes or so later, my pizza arrives (garnished with pickles no less) as do our friends' lunches. A few moments go by and the waiter returns to our table and serves Mr. This Cat's (Not) Abroad his Four Cheese Ravioli except that i
t's not Four Cheese Ravioli but rather Four Cheese Pizza.

We are pretty confident in our identification of his lunch as a pizza rather than ravioli as it is a big round thing with a crust which has been conveniently cut into four slices and garnished with pickles no less.

We draw the waiter's attention to the mistake. Naturally he speaks no English but our colleague's wife speaks fair Turkish and she tries to explain the error.
He shakes his head. We ask for the menu and show him that the Four Cheese Ravioli - sitting proudly under the heading Makarna (= macaroni, or pasta) - is on a separate page than that of the Four Cheese Pizza, sitting proudly under the heading Pizza (= pizza, or pizza). He shakes his head. We again try to explain what has happened - we're not even blaming him (perhaps the kitchen made a mistake - is this not the Cami Café?) - but he's not budging one inch. No, no there would be no ravioli smile for Mr. This Cat's (Not) Abroad.

He points to the big round thing with a crust which has been conveniently cut into four slices and garnished with pickles no less and says, "ravioli".

At this point, Mr. This Cat's (Not) Abroad brings the proceedings to a close: at least it is a vegetarian pizza he concedes, and our time is running short. He tucks into the Pizza That Thinks It's Ravioli. We finish our lunch in two frames of mind:

1) Mr. This Cat's (Not) Abroad & I: Feel gleefully vindicated as the Cami Cafe is still a craphole restaurant

2) Our colleagues: Not a little distressed that their new find is a craphole restaurant.

When the bill comes, we notice that the Four Cheese Ravioli Mr. This Cat had ordered but not received is 50 kurus more than the Four Cheese Pizza which he didn't order but received. A negligible sum - just less than 75¢ but galling just the same.

... and the Unravelling of the Ravioli Mystery as I promised earlier? There is no mystery - there is just no customer service here. As an addendum, the same colleague & his wife were recently in Istanbul where he ordered a plate of rigatoni. When his wife's meal arrived alone, he asked the waiter about the status of his pasta. The waiter returned a few moments later with a basket of dinner rolls. He never got the rigatoni.

They moved to Russia last weekend. I can't help but think it had something to do with the rigatoni.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

An Update on a Sunny October Afternoon

Lest you, my legion of well-wishers think me the a self-aggrandizing tooter of her own horn that I am, let me take this opportunity to thank you all for your wonderfully encouraging words. I may yet buy that little villa along the Costa del Sol (with a sea view) with the staggering proceeds from my book! Huzzah!

I am muy excited. (That had a little bit of Spanish slipped in it. Did you notice? I am preparing for that little villa along the Costa del Sol [with a sea view).]

My publisher has just advised me that he would like to push the publication date of my little missive up up up by several months so that Stealing Fatima's Hand may find its way under Christmas trees and menorahs the world over. As in the holiday season 2009. Fortunately, Islam's Eid el Kebir is in November, so the world's sheep will be spared having a copy of my book tucked under them before they are ritualistically hugged, prayed over, and then have their throats sliced open with a knife. (Although, admittedly, my book may bring them some comfort.)

No estoy very sure how I feel about that news. (That had a little bit of Spanish slipped in it too. Did you notice? I am really preparing for that little villa along the Costa del Sol [with a sea view).] I haven't received any proofs yet and it is almost November. I think I may be very busy soon what with weeping over his edits. It's not that I don't accept criticism well ...

Anyway ... now that I have tooted my own horn in a self-aggrandizing way, let me just say that the purpose of today's post was to apologize for not blogging much of late. I plead a mild raging indisposition: I have a cold, and when I have a cold, the world stops.

And speaking of tooting, I must now go blow my nez. (That had a little bit of Spanish slipped in it as well. Did you notice? I am diligently preparing for that little villa along the Costa del Sol [with a sea view).] Again.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Soon to be Gathering Dust Stealing Hearts Everywhere ...

I'm not terribly adept at self-promotion - I'd be better served by hiring someone who's paid to say gushingly splendid things about me (although being married to Mr. This Cat's Not Abroad helps) - but it has been suggested by the one man who didn't return my manuscript to me with a scathing note that I should say a few words about my forthcoming book.

Did she say book? you ask.

I did.

No, we must have been mistaken, you insist.

You were not.

Yes, the days of wallpapering the spare bedrooms of our homes and lining our kitchen shelves with my rejection letters are over. Vox Humana, an independent publisher - to my most profound astonishment - has accepted my anthology of über-s
narky travel scribblings for publication. Stealing Fatima's Hand: a Moroccan Sojourn is set to steal hearts go unnoticed but nonetheless make my Mom proud in the spring of 2010 - or thereabouts.

Updates will follow.

Huzzah for me!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Potty Mouth

Now, I'm all for conserving water but this sign in a stall in the Ladies' Room at Atatürk International Airport in Istanbul (I always pee with my camera) had me scratching my head.

Am I missing something?