Schnitzel or Goulash!

Sept. 25 2010

Today I got myself up and out of bed in time for lunch. I was in the mood for something cultural and my dad had raved about a place called Czech Kitchen right off the Old Town Square, so I decided to make my way over. I crossed through the Old Town Square just at the top of the hour, in time to enjoy the skeleton ringing the bell and the mechanical procession of saints. Every hour on the hour, the square is packed with tourists who watch the show that lasts about 12 seconds. See it once, and that's plenty.

Anyways, I found the Czech Kitchen that's mentioned in my dad's Prague book. The book suggests to non-Czech speakers (me) to note down the numbers on the English menu outside, because there's no English written or spoken on the inside. So, I marked down 12, 109, and 124 which translates to grilled chicken, potato dumplings and a Pilsner Urquell. But as soon as I got to the front of the cafeteria line, I encounter a 35 year old Czech woman with the build of a shot putter. In other words, someone you don't want to mess with. I say "prosim, grilled chicken" and she responds "Schnitzel", gesturing to a Hot 'n Fresh heater rack, "or Goulash". Not wanting week-old fried chicken, and being tired of goulash (had it 3 times in the last 2 days) I again meekly ask for grilled chicken. She raises her voice, "SCHNITZEL OR GOULASH!" as if telling me for the hundredth time. With 40 people waiting in line behind me, I gesture to the goulash and take my tray from the woman who reminds me of the mean lunch lady from back in 3rd grade. The only thing you can do in this sort of situation is laugh off the attitude that is only so cliche being in Eastern Europe.

I was thinking about bringing our tour group here for some classic calloused Iron Curtain verbal abuse as they order their lunch, but maybe it's better reserved as an option for their free time.


Lauren Hill, University of Notre Dame

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