When our son, George, was in elementary school, he became friendly with a boy of Turkish descent, and after a while, Genna and I became friendly with his parents.
If you don't know, most Middle Eastern people and those of Mediterranean descent really like lamb. That covers George's little friend's parents, as well as Genna and I, both being Italian and German. Actually, it just covers me, who has an Italian gene when it comes to lamb, while Genna has a German one. It's been my experience that most Germans don't care for lamb, and Genna can't even stand the smell of it cooking.
Here's how much she doesn't like lamb. After we started dating steadily, and while discussing our likes and dislikes, her lamb issue came up. Well, shortly after, we got invited for dinner at my parents to meet Genna. My Italian mother is, to this day, at nearly 85, a great, intuitive cook, especially of her native dishes. She cooks a leg of lamb with her special spiced honey and mint sauce which is so good, I feel guilty telling you about it, but not able to offer you some.
Guess what I forgot to tell mom not to make for dinner? I realized the gaffe while driving with Genna to my parents house on Barnegat Bay at the Jersey shore. Not saying anything, just thinking to myself, oh, she'll probably make lasagna, or a roast beef, or... something everyone likes (hope a hope a hope a).
We got out of the car in the driveway, and I could smell the lamb from the kitchen exhaust, and so could Genna, who said, out of respect for my mother, "Don't you say a word!!"
Genna and my parents got off to a good start, and the meal was going very well under the circumstances. Genna was eating everything else on her plate, except the lamb, which she was gradually cutting in small pieces. Then I realized that she was also gradually feeding them to Jon Jon, my parents Chihuahua, whom I've already told you about (he has his own story). When her lamb was almost completely transferred to Jon Jon's gullet, my mother said, "Genna, have another piece of lamb," as she simultaneously plopped it on her plate.
I started to howl with laughter; the gig was up.
Back to our Turkish friends. Needless to say, Genna required assurances from George's friend's parents that there were plenty of other things on the menu at the Turkish restaurant that we were going to, besides their lamb specialty. The restaurant was in North Bergen, NJ, and I was glad it was the four of us, because from the looks of the outside, I alone would never gone into this place. Once inside, it was pretty charming, actually. We let them order for us, since they knew the cuisine, provided it was lamb for me, and beef for Genna. Throughout the different courses, we were all sipping a Turkish liquor, which was licorice based, similar to my Italian Zambuca. It certainly was a lubricant, because we became looser, happier, and certainly more painless as the night wore on.
Around 11 o'clock, with the mics and music getting louder, the Maitre 'D announced the arrival of Yasmine, the belly dancer. This girl was like a giant tube of toothpaste, squeezed in all the right places, and she could make all those baubles attached to her two piece costume move in every direction. She dervishly moved from table to table, and the Turkish men would stand up, dance with her, then fan a wad of one dollar bills over her head, letting them drop to the dance floor around her.
Yasmine eventually made her way over to our table, and bending down over the loud music yelled to me, "You're not Turkish, are you?" That was an easy assessment on her part, since I was the only guy there with light skin, and without a hook nose and moustache.
Yasmine laughed, and bent down close enough to my ear to whisper "Neither am I. I'm Jewish!"
We both laughed privately at each other for a few seconds.