Italian food safari

  • Mahavir Jagdev, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Sep 30, 2014 09:00 IST

Vicenza is a small town near Venezia (Venice) in Italy. The town is famous for its theatres with multiple screens. One can visit the nearby castle where the kings used to play chess with live soldiers during medieval times.

Venezia was within driving distance and the weekends were spent there. The submerged foundations of buildings in Venice are a technical wonder, they rest on wooden piles, some of which are centuries old.

The gondola ride through the water ways in the city is very romantic. The motor boat ride from the city centre on the water ways towards the airport takes you to the famous Murano glass factories on an island.

My Italian agent, Antonio, had invited me over for lunch one afternoon. There was a Belgian lady joining us. She was a buyer. I had left the choice of food to Antonio as the menu cards were written in Italian.

Whenever I ate out alone, the meal was decided by the roll of the twin dices. It could be number 11 on some days and number 22 on another and the waiter would get me the food from the serial number printed on the menu card.

That afternoon Antonio ordered a delicious steak. We started to enjoy the main course after a few starters downed with wine. After the first bite, Antonio asked, "How is the horse meat?" The Belgian lady almost screamed, "Horse meat!" and put her laden fork down. He pointed towards the fields at the miniature horses grazing and said, "Not exactly horses, this is pony meat of those horses." The lady had started to throw up by now and excused herself to the rest room. It was the end of the Italian food safari for her, and so were our prospective orders. The lunch was a disaster. Never to horse around with buyers, is what I decided.

Having missed out on lunch, I was very hungry by dinner time. The hotel had an aquarium in the dining hall with a lobster swimming in it. Somehow I felt that he was the happiest to see me eat in the hall.

We had struck a rapport. I thought it was there for decoration. The hotel owner's daughter, Maria, came to take my order. As the dices were rolled, it was number 26 from the menu card. She went to the kitchen and came back with a pair of tongs, dipped them in the aquarium and took out the lobster. Out of curiosity, I asked her what she was going to do with it and she replied, "This is what you have ordered for dinner tonight, number 26." After the lunch episode, I was in no mood to slaughter my friend the lobster and asked Maria to release him. I had lost my appetite.

The next morning I had to catch a flight from Venice to Rome. Checking out of the hotel, I observed that Mr Lobster was missing from the aquarium. I asked Maria and she said, "After you left last evening, another guest ordered for number 26."

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