Tuesday, July 31th, 2012
“This is terrible,” she said with a sour face.
He wanted to eat at TGIFridays. He saw one near the statue of George IV.
He saw a Pizza Hut, a Subway and a couple of McDonald’s, too. He’d settle for any of them.
She wanted authentic Scottish cuisine. They’d seen the Castle, walked the Royal Mile, visited the Scottish Heritage Museum, and stopped at the park with the pipers playing the afternoon show. Now, she wanted to eat in a Scottish restaurant and enjoy Scottish food.
He wanted to know what in the hell Scottish cuisine was. In his life, he’d eaten Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Italian, Greek, German, French, Indian, and Brazilian. He’d had dessert at a Russian Tea Room and a pint at an Irish Pub. Black Angus Steakhouse is the best he could come up with. “You have to wonder,” he said, “why we’ve never seen a Caledonian Grill or House of Pict?”
“That’s the reason we travel. It’s to experience a new culture,” she said.
She had to pry him off the sofa. He governed his calendar around ESPN Sports Center, weekend lawn care, and pizza on Fridays.
At some point in his life, he must have experienced new culture. Nobody, she reasoned, is born with a prioi knowledge of the Philadelphia Phillies, Bruce Springsteen, and Schwarzenegger movies.
She only convinced him to travel to Edinburgh because the flight was direct.
He’d preferred England to Scotland, because he said they spoke English not Scottish. She wasn’t sure if that comment was wit or ignorance. Either way, London was hosting the Olympics.
She prayed he didn’t find the word “Gaelic” on the Internet.
They argued openly about dinner up and down Hanover Street, where they were ending a long day of sightseeing. Earlier, they’d gotten lost in the Old Town. The curving streets, narrow alleys and bridges were confusing. They wanted to turn from Market Street to North Bridge, not realizing the North Bridge was actually a bridge, which crossed over Market.
She found Old Town romantic and charming. To him, romantic or charming was horseshit. He dragged her across Waverly Bridge to Princess Street, which was straight and wide.
He liked the New Town. It was laid out in rectangles he could understand. He could orient himself. He knew where he was, where he came from and where he could go to in the New Town.
And, New Town produced a Fridays.
“Fridays,” he said, “is a known entity.”
“Like Starbucks?” she asked pointedly.
He still bristled over that. He’d wanted a coffee. He didn’t think that required an explanation. The kid behind the counter tried to help, but the kid couldn’t make it clear that Starbucks didn’t serve just “coffee.” Europe didn’t get “drip.” Eventually, the boy made him an Americano. He complained that saying Coffee Americano was saying Coffee Coffee.
“Why,” she said hotly, “do you expect TGIFriday’s to be any different than that?”
She had a point, so he steered them back to the topic what Scottish cuisine might possibly be.
“I don’t know,” she parried, “that’s want I’m trying to discover. How are you going to find something if you don’t actually look for it?”
“I don’t want to find something,” he jabbed back. “I’ve already found something.” He extended his arm and pointed at the sign over the door.
“You haven’t found anything,” she snapped. “You’ve fallen back on. You’ve settled for. And you don’t even know if what you’ve settled for is what you actually think it is.” She gave him the special look, “Starbucks, remember?”
Shit. She had him back to Starbucks.
“Fine!” he said, “Show me one traditional Scottish Restaurant anywhere in this town.” They’d seen a lot of Italian restaurants. There were a couple of Chinese places. They’d even seen a Mexican joint. “Even the Scots don’t eat Scottish. Doesn’t that tell you something?”
She said that she’d seen plenty of authentic Scottish restaurants. She pointed to the corner of Hanover and Rose Streets.
He sputtered, “You mean that pub? That’s not a restaurant. That’s a bar.”
“Yes. I want to eat there. I want to eat real Scottish food.” She settled happily on his word for it. “I want to eat at that pub.”
He banged his knees on the table legs squeezing into the seat. He waited sullenly for someone to take his order before they realized you had to order at the bar. She ordered two of their ‘most traditional Scottish dishes.’ He ordered a pint of strong beer.
The barman brought the meals.
She put her fork down after the first bite. She pushed the plate away. He said, reaching across the table with his fork, “You going to finish your haggis?”