Ordering Food in Brussels
Walking into the restaurant, Marian, Sarah and I looked around with a hope that someone would come seat us. Neither sign was posted saying, “Please wait to be seated,” nor was there anyone bustling over to the three very lost travelers. After a few minutes of awkward stares from the locals, a middle-aged Belgian woman waddled over to us. The lady asked us a question in French, presumably asking us if we wanted to eat. Marian and I cut a glance at one another just shrugged. Sarah interjected that, “Yes, we would like to eat.” The Belgian lady waved her hand for us to follow her.
Waddling through tables, past the bar, up a narrow set of stairs, and into a corner table she led us. Upon reaching the table, instead of attempting to talk to us, she threw the menus on the table and stormed off.
Chuckling Marian, Sarah, and I began looking over the menus praying that there may be a few familiar words. I spotted something mozzarella, and Sarah saw some kind of mead, while Marian scanned for a semblance of a meat. Marian eventually found a word that resembled calamari, but we couldn’t be sure.
A few minutes later, the middle-aged Belgian waddled over to our table again but this time had a younger waitress in her wake. In frustrated French, the middle-aged woman must have explained to the younger waitress that we were Americans who didn’t speak a word of French. They also may have plotted how to poison our food best, but we will never know. The younger waitress nodded and retrieved her notepad from her bag.
“You want to order?” she asked us with a look of apprehension at using English. The three of us continued to point at the menu requesting the few foods we recognized and chanced it with a few others. Nodding in what we could only hope was a sign of her understanding our order, the younger waitress trotted off with our menus.
While we waited for our impending food poisoned dinner, the three of us chatted about how not one of us knew French. Coming from southern America, the three of us knew enough Spanish to get around and order food. I studied German in college but never French. We were in Brussels, Belgium and had no idea how to speak to the locals.
After a short wait, the middle-aged waitress and the younger waitress brought our dinner. On the table was a wide assortment of food. Mozzarella sticks, fried calamari, a salad, Belgian mead, and chicken wings. When the younger waitress set the chicken wings on the table, she smiled while pointing to herself and said, “On me.”
It took the three of us half a second to realize that she had ordered the wings for us because we clearly did not order ourselves enough food. Thanking her a few times too many, both the middle-aged waitress and the younger waitress smiled broadly at our gratitude.
That night Marian, Sarah, and I found probably the only restaurant in Brussels with a staff that did not speak good English. We pointed to a menu and relied on the kindness of our waitresses. They took fantastic care of us, and I will never forget that fried calamari and chicken wings.