In honor of my return flight to Dublin tomorrow, I thought I would share with y’all a column I wrote for the Times-Georgian about ordering food in Ireland. Hope you enjoy!!
Having lived in Ireland for eight months, my vocabulary has shifted quite a bit. I say things like, “Cheers!” and “Thanks a mill!” without thinking about it. I even caught myself dropping the “h” in my “th” sounds. The number three comes to sound like “tree.” I have literally said, “tree hundred tirty-tree.” All of this comes with living in an environment that speaks differently than how I was taught.
One thing I still struggle with is ordering food.
Some habits die hard. Just the other day, I ordered chips as a side for my meal and was very disappointed when French fries came with my sandwich and not Doritos. I bowed my head in defeat and munched on my fries. It has been a long struggle that began horribly and has only gotten slightly better.
I remember my first visit to Subway here in Dublin. Thinking it was like any Subway from America, I walked up to the counter and said, “Six inch turkey on wheat.” The Subway girl must have thought I spoke Klingon because she looked at me like I was from Star Trek. I thought maybe I spoke too fast, so I repeated slowly, “Siix iincch tuuurrkeeeyyy on wheeaattttt pleease.” Again the girl stared blankly back at me, but eventually asked, “Half turkey on brown?” I rolled my eyes and nodded.
The Subway girl then proceeded to build my sandwich probably cursing my name in the process. Little did she know it was about to get worse.
She asked in a thick Eastern European accent, “Plain or spicy cheese?” My brain immediately went into overdrive. What did she mean by plain cheese? Is that cheddar? American? Or some weird kind of European goats cheese? What about spicy? Does that mean it is pepper jack? Or how about cheese with a Mediterranean twist? I don’t know. I don’t know! “Plain, please,” was the only response I could muster praying that I wasn’t ordering the last meal of my life.
“Toasted?” Subway girl asked. “No thanks,” I said back. “You sure?” she asked. Subway girl looked at me by only moving her eyes, arching one eyebrow high into her forehead as if to say, “Are you sure you don’t want this toasted? You are asking to die if you don’t.” I stood by my choice to not have the sandwich toasted.
The Subway girl moved my sandwich down the counter. “Salad?” was her next question. “Oh, no that’s okay,” I said. The girl then began to wrap up my sandwich, but I wasn’t finished ordering. “Wait! There’s more stuff I want to put on it!” I half yelled at the girl.
The Subway girl glared at me. This was not a look you give to someone who accidentally bumped into you or maybe mispronounced your name. No, this was the look of pure hatred. “But you said no salad,” she snarled. “I don’t want a salad. I just want a sandwich,” I said in a snarky tone. The Subway girl unravelled the paper and glared back up at me with annoyance radiating off her.
The words rolled off my tongue as sweetly as possible, “Could I please have lettuce, mayo, olive oil, salt, and pepper?” The Subway girl came back to me, “No olive oil.” Shocked I mustered an, “Okay. It’ll be fine without. That’s all then. Thank you.”
Wrapping the sandwich for the second time, the Subway girl was ready to tell me to shove off. I paid for my meal and practically ran from Subway.
I have since mastered the art of ordering a sandwich from Subway in Ireland. No they don’t have olive oil, and salad means lettuce and tomato and other toppings. It’s really difficult to change my speaking habits that are twenty-two years old, but I am working on it.
Oh the continuing struggle that is ordering food in Ireland.