"We will eat," I told him. "Good," he said, holding the photograph very near to his face. Sammy Davis, Junior, Junior was persisting to cry. "One thing, though," the hero said.
"You should know..."
"I am a...how to say this..."
"You are very hungry, yes?"
"I'm a vegetarian."
"I do not understand."
"I don't eat meat"
"I just don't"
"How can you not eat meat?"
"I just don't"
"He does not eat meat," I told Grandfather.
"Yes he does," he informed me.
"Yes you do" I likewise informed the hero.
"No. I don't"
"Why not?" I inquired him again.
"I just don't. No meat"
"Do you eat veal?"
"Oh, God. Absolutely no veal."
"What about sausage?"
"No sausage either?" I told Grandfather this, and he presented me a very bothered look.
"What is wrong with him?" he asked.
"What is wrong with you" I asked him.
"Its just the way I am" he said
"What did he say is wrong with him?" Grandfather asked.
"It is just the way he is"
"Does he eat sausage?"
"No. He says he does not eat sausage."
"That is what he says."
"In truth you do not eat any sausage?"
"No sausage," I told Grandfather. He closed his eyes and tried to put his arms around his stomach, but there was not room because of the wheel. It appeared like he was becoming sick because the Hero would not eat sausage. "Well, let him deduce what he is going to eat. We will go to the most proximal restaurant."
"You are a schmuch" I informed the Hero.
"You are not using the word correctly,", he said.
"Yes I am," I said.
"What do you mean he does not eat meat?" the waitress asked, and Grandfather put his head in his hands. "What is wrong with him?" she asked.
"Which? The one who does not eat mean, the one with his head in his hands, or the bitch who is masticating her tail?"
"The one who does not eat meat."
"It is only the way that he is." The hero asked what we were talking about.
"They do not have anything without meat," I informed him.
"He does not eat any meat at all?" she inquired me again.
"It is merely the way he is," I told her.
"No sausage," Grandfather answered to the waitress, rotating his head from here to there.
"Maybe you could eat some meat" I suggested to the hero, "because they do not have anything that is not meat."
"Don't they have potatoes or something?" he asked.
"Do you have potatoes?" I asked the waitress. "Or something"
"You only receive a potato with the meat," she said. I told the hero.
"Couldn't I just get a plate of potatoes?"
"Couldn't I get two or three potatoes, without meat?"
I asked the waitress, and she said she would go to the chef and inquire him.
"Ask him if he eats liver," Grandfather said.
The waitress returned and said, "Here is what I have to say. We can make concessions to give him two potatoes, but they are served with a piece of meat on the plate. The chef says that this cannot be negotiated. He will have to eat it."
"Two potatoes fine?" I asked the hero.
"Oh, that would be great"
Grandfather and I both ordered the pork steak, and ordered one for Sammy Davis, Junior, Junior as well, who was becoming sociable with the hero's leg.
Everything Is Illuminated, by Jonathan Safran Foer
I started reading this book a week ago, and am really getting into it now! I found this passage really rather funny, and familiar at the same time, after some of my previous debacles in Prague. Which is particularly appropriate to mention, now that I have just booked a flight to Budapest for late November, and expect to go through a similar trial when my friends inevitably drag me to one of the more traditional restaurants that Hungary has to offer.
Incidentally, my boss is from Hungary, and had a great(!) story to tell of one of his experiences of eating our there with a vegetarian. Him and some colleagues, including the poor unsuspecting veggie guy, had a table booked in one such traditional restaurant. On arrival, to the guy's horror, goose was the only thing on the menu. Goose pie, goose steak, goose soup. You name it, it was made out of goose. So when the vegetarian asked the waiter if there was anything at all that he could have, the waiter went away and asked the chef, and came back excitedly, saying that it could be done. Eventually, the food was bought out, and it turned out that the chef's idea of a good dish suitable for such a diet was some bread soaked in goose fat.
Anyway, read the book! Its great - a really compelling mixture of humour, mystery, tragedy and love.