Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Translating "Sick" into Spanish

To the citizens of Europe's most beautiful cities, an American vomiting into the gutter is nothing new. They see it all the time. America practically specializes in exporting binge-drinking college students to Europe. So I shouldn't have been so worried about whether or not I could make it to the corner store and back without hurling. They would have just stepped around me and continued on their cultured, sophisticated ways. As it happened, it was no problem. What was a problem was my desperate craving for the sick-foods of my home country.

In general, I'm an adventurous eater and I like trying new foods in foreign countries. That all ended when I was flattened by food poisoning. I wanted 7-up and only 7-up, dammit. And when I wanted something more solid, I wanted saltines and I wanted applesauce. And what I really wanted was for my mother to bring them to me, but I knew that was probably an unreasonable expectation, with her being 3000 miles away and recovering from surgery. And I don't think the TSA is letting you take big bottles of 7-up on flights any more anyway, so that was out. I had to handle getting my own sustenance, at least until my domestic-support-staff/ home-health-aid got back from the office.

So I made it all the way down the block, and stood there in the market, trying to will the familiar packages into materializing on the shelf in front of me. It didn't seem to be working. So I took a deep breath, forced my brain to concentrate on problem-solving and not on nausea, and did my best. I gathered the blandest, softest, plainest foods I could, managed to pay for them, and scuttled back out into the street. I made it all the way back home without incident, kicked off my shoes, dropped my grocery bags, and whimpered my way back to bed clutching a bottle of lemon soda.

It must have worked, because I did not die (despite my midnight resignation to a life tragically cut short by my own cooking). My heart still beats, my stomach still does its gurgly work, and my brain still hosts an overactive imagination. An aside to my family: apparently I really do love you an awful lot, because it was very sad to picture you all at my funeral. But, on the bright side, you do look good in black. Such a handsome bunch.

So, for future reference, and in hopes that someone might benefit from this hard-won information, here's how some traditional American home remedies translate into broken Spanish:

Saltines = Grissini (those plain, crisp breadsticks the diameter of pencils)
Applesauce = Purée de Patatas (Instant Mashed Potatoes) (as close as I could get)
7-up = Fanta Limón
Bananas = Bananas
Love of a Good Man = Amor de un Hombre Bueno (not available in supermarkets)

And a note about the grissini: they might actually be a better sick-food than saltines. They're made of the same basic stuff, of course, but their long, thin shape really lends itself to being eaten while lying in bed. All the crumb-producing chomping action takes place inside the mouth, thus preventing cracker crumbs from ending up in the sheets or stuck to the neck or in the hair. Cracker crumbs in the hair=bad morale.

Now that I'm feeling better, I've learned something else: a country known for its fantastic food is a great place to be newly-recovered from food poisoning. Think you liked the food before you got sick? Try it now, when it's the first food with actual flavor you've eaten in days. "This is the best bread I've ever eaten!" "This fish is astonishing!" "Oooh, can I have some more rice? I love it!"

It's kind of fun. I wouldn't say it's worth it necessarily, but it is a nice bonus in the whole nasty affair.

-I don't want to eat anything.
-I'd like a little broth to drink.
-I want some noodle soup.
-I'd like some chicken soup.
-I want a small cheese sandwich.
-I want a beer, some salad, fish, potatoes, and a coffee, please!

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