Thursday, January 3, 2013

Learning languages over lunch.

Cholesterol and Diabetes can turn even diehard foodies into food voyeurs. After years of bingeing on the crispiest, crunchiest and sinfully sweet eats, one gets reduced to being a serial ogler of the forbidden fruits on the menu card.

One way to channelize the food lust is by developing an insatiable appetite for learning new languages by studying the smorgasbord of dish names. So while your friends are debating on what to order at Little Italy, you could just tap a few screens on your smart phone and discover that Antipasto cues ‘before the meal’ Vermicelli means ‘little worms’, Fettuccine is ‘little ribbons’, Penne is Italian for ‘pens’, Farfalle is ‘butterflies’, Salsa is ‘sauce’, Piccante is ‘spicy’, Salato is ‘salty’, Dolce is ‘sweet’ and Tiramisu can literally be deciphered as ‘pick me up’. By the time your pals let out their symphony of burps, you would have added ten new words to your vocabulary!

It need not always be menu cards. You could pick a smattering of Chinese, Spanish or Greek by just getting curious about restaurant names. The other day, I was walking past Zaitoon, the fast food joint. I hurried home and googled. I figured out that Zaitoon is Arabic for ‘olive’.

Being curious has its benefits. You could always appear smarter than you are. I may have never been to ITC Grand Chola’s ‘Modo Mio’. But I know it’s the Italian way of proclaiming ‘My way’. All I have to do is to shove this nugget into a conversation to score my corporate brownie.

Since French is the ultimate way to appropriate blue-bloodedness, these days I am learning the Parisian lingo by leering at signboards. During the first course of my misadventures, I’ve learned that Brasserie is not a lingerie store but an ‘informal restaurant’. La Boulangerie is not as sophisticated as it seems. It’s French for ‘the bakery’. The ‘Parfait’ in Parfait 3 stands for ‘perfect’. Haute Saute translates to ‘High Toss’. And Chez Vous is ‘your place’.

Thanks to my new found linguistic mojo, I can now aspire to be a pseudo polyglot who’s at ease mouthing the Arabic ‘Yalla Yalla’ and the Korean ‘Deok Su Gung’.