Tonight I had the pleasure of going out to a seafood restaurant with Wallace and his associate.
I was quick to pick out a large red snapper for the pan from the display cabinet before heading to our private room in the family section of the restaurant.
Restaurants in Riyadh have two separate eating areas, one for males and the other for families.
Females eat in the family section whether they eat alone, accompanied by their husband or their family.
Our private room had a buzzer in the wall to page the waiter with our order.
I was also able to take off my abaya and relax with a glass of Saudi Cooler: a mix of soda water and apple juice with diced fruit and mint. (A splash of champagne would have spritzed it up nicely).
We had no trouble conveying our order of shrimp cocktail, vine leaves, calamari, and sizzling seafood plate.
Remembering how my father always ate fish with boiled greens I asked whether I could have a bowl of spinach.
This is where Greenpeace comes into it…..
Waiter: Yes we have spinach but it is not on this menu but on another menu.
Me: Can I see the other menu?
Waiter: (returns with menu of Indian food and points to Palak Mutter ) Here is spinach you eat with dal
Me: Do I have to order dal to get the spinach?
(The waiter walks out and returns with the head waiter)
Head Waiter: (pointing to the Palak Mutter) This is palak with grilled piece
Me: (thinking Mutter is Mutton) Oh, it comes with grilled meat?
Head Waiter: (more pronounced) Greenpeace
(Wallace and the associate roll their eyes)
The Associate: Ah, Greenpeace, yes
Me: (rolling my eyes at the associate and staving off hunger pangs) Yes, that’s fine we will have the Greenpeace
Head Waiter: Would you like it spicy or normal?
Me: Spicy thanks
Head Waiter (instructing the waiter a la John Fawlty to Manuel) Palak Mutter!
Our sumptuous spread arrived including the spinach-the associate was first to notice it came mixed with green peas
That is one of the joys of expat life: breaking through the language barrier
The food was exceptional, the service outstanding and best of all- the associate picked up the tab.