food and society

A few food observations from Sweden (I know I need to write some real blog posts but this will have to suffice for now):
1. Falafel is the new pizza. I have never seen so much falafel. Even the Swedish equivalent of McDonald’s has a falafel burger.
2. Pizza shops are the new chinese restaurant. Just as any Thai/Korean/Vietnamese/etc restaurant outside of major urban centers in the U.S. seems to get stuck serving egg foo yung and fried rice, almost every ethnic restaurant in town is a pizza shop (e.g. ali baba’s pizza, Istanbul pizza, Pizza Roma) offering kebab, falafel and/or whatever couple of home country items they can squeeze on the menu.
3. Yesterday we decided to try the Chinese restaurant, Hong Kong Cafe, in the centrum. We could not figure out what we might order from the menu because the choices were so limited. We were speaking to the staff exclusively in Chinese (definitely still better than our Swedish). We told them that we had lived in China. They liked us and we even managed to get them to bring us some Chrysanthemum tea from their private stash. Then it came time to order. So, in Chinese, we said they we saw that they had broccoli on the menu and we were vegetarian so we were wondering if they could do some steamed broccoli sauteed with garlic. Then, the server replied, also in Chinese, “We don’t have any fresh vegetables. We only have frozen.” “Ok.” we responded, a bit taken aback by this unexpected response since, at least in Guangzhou, the fresh vegetables are the key to the cooking, “Do you have any tofu?” This question was mostly for me because I would just about give my left arm for 8 oz. of tofu. The response, still in Chinese: “No. This is not China and it is not Chinatown in the United States. This is Sweden. You need to read the menu and pick something.”

The thing was, she wasn’t trying to be mean or hostile, she was just explaining that there wasn’t anything particularly Chinese about the Hong Kong Cafe. I still have not quite gotten over the strangeness of having someone tell you in Chinese that you were in Sweden now and you needed to conform to the existing menu. Perfect. Score one for Max Weber.

This entry was posted in Culture Shock, Food, In Sweden, Multiculturalism, Speaking and Learning Chinese. Bookmark the permalink.

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