Thursday, January 19, 2006

Cambodia on my Plate

Finding spicy food in France can be quite a challenge. Most of the French would is rather mild and delicately flavored and such fineness is rather lost on our Indian palates. After 3 days of fine food I was quite desperate for some serious chilli so I went in search of some restaurant which served some sort of Asian cuisine.

Meylan was a very small town adjoining Grenoble, I was skeptical but thankfully I came across 'Cambodia' in the next block after walking for 10 minutes. I had never ever eaten in a restaurant alone before but sheer desperation makes us do a lot of things, I walked in and sat on a table facing the window to hide my embarrassment of eating alone.

The proprietor gave me a big smile and handed me the menu. My basic knowledge of French helped me to figure out whether it was beef, chicken or fish and I asked the rest to this man who had forgotten to speak English. I asked if he was from Cambodia and he beamed and said yes he was, he came to France in his teens. I asked if it was during Pol Pot and he nodded his head vigorously and said 'Vely bad time'. He asked me where I was from - I said Bombay, India. 'Cinema!! Aishwarya!!!?' I am of course stupefied and most impressed about his knowledge but groan inwardly about the choice of actor. Can't really blame him - he is a man after all.

I saw he had more questions for me but language is a barrier so I pointed out the items I wanted to eat and he gave me a big smile. 'Good. Wait vingt minute ok?’ I waited and felt rather silly sitting alone and looked across the street and saw the shops downing their shutters.

A few minutes later a plate of spring rolls appeared, the main said 'for you - eat', I said I hadn't ordered this but he said 'I give you' so I ate obediently loving every bite and later managed to what I had ordered as well. I felt revived with some Asian food and thanked the man profusely for his hospitality and paid the bill. He offered me a sweet which tasted very similar to a til laddu and I said it’s a lot like Indian sweets. He said 'Asia country so lot is same'. I promised to come back later and said my goodbyes.

This man was in a country very different from his own, he had left all the turmoil to rebuild his life but perhaps in his quiet moments missed his paddy fields and what used to be home and I was in a strange country trying to cope with the language and food and felt quite homesick. Perhaps that is why we were happy, because we met somebody from close to home...

1 comment:

The Comic Project said...

A cold tired day in Paris and almost not eating anything, landed up at an Indian restaurant near Champs Elysees. mmmm the ffood felt divine.