The Life of Liz

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world. ~Anne Frank

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Back of Latin's Closet

On Language:

Maybe I should rename this blog Liz Learns a Language.  But since learning Spanish is my only real occupation in this current moment, there ya go…

I find myself often far from the comforts of a dictionary, groping frantically for a missing Spanish word.  Usually, it’s the lynchpin of the sentence or even the paragraph and without it, I’m just a babbling idiot.  When this happens, I’ve developed a little trick: I say the word in English, but pronounce it as if it were Spanish.  I’m hoping that my wild shot in the dark will land in at least the same zip code as my target and someone will go “ahhhhh” and provide the actual word.  It doesn’t always work.  Often I am met with blank cow-like stares and I have to either rephrase or completely abandon the thought.  But you might be surprised at how often this particular trick does work.

There’s a good reason for this, and I like to call that reason Latin.  Spanish is a Romance language, which means it is a direct descendant of Latin, not just a sexier sort of tongue (although sometimes it really is…).  I’m not sure what family of languages English falls into.  However, it is the Great Scavenger of languages and has spent quite a bit of time rummaging through Latin’s closet.  For this reason, there are a large number of cognates (words that sound the same because they are the same; i.e.: information and informaci√≥n).  So thanks, Latin! Way to be a pal!

On American Food:

I have been asked to cook an authentic American meal for the family.  This may not sound hard, as I am, when it comes to American food at least, a more than competent cook.  Just about everyone in my family can cook at least one or two things that are the best thing you’ve ever tasted. 

That being said, I find this assignment enormously difficult.  For one thing, what exactly is American food anyway? As Becky can attest, I usually cook dishes from all over the world: Indian, Chinese, Italian, French, Spanish, etc.  Here, I’m not making hot dogs, and it’s too hot for stew and biscuits.  For another thing, whatever I make has to be available here, which really limits my spicing options, and my cheese options.  Also, I don’t have access to any cook books, so whatever I make, I must just know how to make.  And for the crowning glory of making this super difficult, Patricia’s dad hates garlic! I know, I can’t believe it either.  How are we friends?!

So after racking my brain (which is the only way in which girls can get racked, thankfully), I decided, with a strong appreciation for the irony, to make Mexican food.  I will be making fajitas, guacamole, tomato and cucumber salad, with cinnamon oranges for desert.  I’ll let you know how it goes!

On Parents:

I’ve been…uh….entertaining a gentleman caller.  He’s great - funny, outgoing, kinda goofy, very personable.  And absolutely none of that was in evidence yesterday when I introduced him to my parents, via Skype.  Suddenly, he was a sweating, nervous mute and there were a couple of times I was a little afraid he was going to throw up in my lap.  Not that I really blame him, he speaks no English and my parents speak no Spanish.  And, as I’ve often said, any day when I am your best translation option is a sad day for all involved.  So, fellas, picture Meeting the Parents, only you don’t know what they think of foreigners and you can’t understand anything they’re saying.  Tell me you don’t feel a little bit queasy too!

On Vegetables:

They have this veggie here called chayote (or some such spelling thereof).  When cooked, it’s got a nice light taste and texture, kind of like what cucumbers might be if they could be cooked without turning into mush.  I very much enjoy eating it, and I HATE cooking with it.  When it’s peeled, it becomes very slimy and the slime dries almost instantly to a thin brown crust that will NOT come off my skin.  I washed my hands trice with strong powdered detergent, once with oil, scraped at it with my fingernails - nothing.  Finally I had to have someone else scrub my hands with steel wool to get it off.  And it’s still not completely gone.  I am, however, extremely exfoliated. 


Maeve's Momma March 7, 2011 at 9:32:00 AM MST  

aww, that Skype-bilingual-parent-meeting sounds nerve-wracking! Glad the boy survived! Did he volunteer to meet your parents, or was that your idea?

John March 7, 2011 at 4:46:00 PM MST  

Everyone I've ever met overseas is convinced Americans eat hamburgers every meal. Though I would never (ever, ever) turn down fajitas, I suggest a burger BBQ in the near future.

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A brand new mom trying to navigate the crazy world of mixed families, babies, and working full time. Phew! Just writing that makes me want to lie down.


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