Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Menu

We often take for granted the some of the basics of the English language. Punctuation, for example, is often misapplied. Take, for instance, my blog; I am a bona fide "native" speaker of "American" English, yet frequently make errors in both my vocabulary choices and the punctuation that organizes them. Why would I expect a restaurant in my neighborhood to have a grammatically-correct English menu?

Ordering in Japan (at my level of Japanese reading comprehension) is like visiting the Pyramids at Giza. With the reading ability of a 4 year old, deciphering the hieroglyphs can be challenging. After gazing upon the menu for what seems to be forever, I know that the series of pictographs mean something...but...but does this one mean "pork," "cow tongue," or "Big Mac?" Oh, the agony... The scientific method does work, although I rely heavily on trial and error. The robots over here react well to binary concepts (i.e. the old robot joke: 010100111? 01101!).

As it turns out, one of my favorite (Kana's, too) places to dine is an Italian restaurant called Grotto Diana. As I say, "when in Tokyo, do as the Romans do."

It's only about 5 minutes from my house by chari-chari and has great food and drink (although their meatballs are nothing compared to Marie's). The staff there is always friendly. Due to the fact that I visit Grotto regularly, I've become the pet foreigner-more of a Norm Peterson than a Cliff Clavin. The manager, Nishidasan, is my age and speaks English as well as I speak Japanese so it's a friendship based on mime and charades. Anyhow, in one of our broken conversations I explained that I was a teacher of English. So, when Nishidasan decided to have a bi-lingual menu, he consulted his resident expert, yours truly. After Kana and I finished our meal last night, this new marvel of globalization appeared in front of me (along with a glass of Japanese whiskey-payment I suppose. Maybe he wanted to influence my grading ability). There were a few strange spellings: "watar" or wudder in Philadelphianese and "basils" which only makes use of the New Jerseyan habit of unnecessary pluralization ("yous guys" is the most common application). Otherwise, he had accomplished the incredible task of translating a menu of Italian dishes into Japanese and then into English. The next step will be cooking the food without using chopsticks or a wok but...hey, who's complaining?

Be well,


Pop said...

Pasta/noodles were not original to Italy - though Rigottoni and Ziti may be truly Italian. Perhaps Marco Polo visited Japan as well? Does your friend do "Pizza"?
Perhaps, a Sushi Pizza would go over well - though I would probably pass on it. If you can get a "Chicago Style" Pizza or a "New York Style" Pizza, why not a "Tokyo Style" Pizza?
- just a thought (and not a very good one at that.)

marie said...

Thanks for the meatball-shout-out!

Sounds like life in Japan is brimming with adventure! We enjoy your entries very much.

EMILY WONDERS: is Halloween is celebrated there - if not, is there a scary holiday? Em will be Grace O'Malley, a fierce 16th century she-pirate. Peter will be "The Red" Power Ranger. Trick or treat!

PETER WRITES: I hope you have a great time in Japan. Have you seen any cool trains? We made pictures of Jack-O-Lanterns (in school). Did you try any new favors of sushi? Do they drive race cars in Japan? I hope you just have the goodest time in Japan AND new languages.

xo to Kana
We miss you!
Marie & Co.