Sunday, December 03, 2006

Rockin' Moroccans

This week the Raggedyhome hosted two young, married couples for Shabbos - one married for a little over a year, the other married barely more than a month. Aside from being cute and lovey-dovey, these guests showed no signs of aggressively rude behavior. Which is a big step up for us! Au contraire, these guests were gracious, sweet, and pleasant every step of the way.

I have to admit that I was a little nervous about our company. For one, they are all native speakers of French, which, aside from two years in high school that were mostly spent devising new and creative ways to cut class, I have little or no experience with. Basically I remember the initial three-sentence greeting we learned that has to do with entering French class, sitting down, taking out my textbook and notebook, and saying hello. Fin. That's about it. At that point I think I excused myself to go plot my communist takeover of the school.

RaggedyDad, international man of mystery that he is, had no trouble conversing with our guests in rapid-fire French. It's okay. I was able to follow the topic if not the details of the conversations, and each guest made a concerted effort to steer the conversation back to English. Or RaggedyDad would turn to me and give me a quick rundown. By now, I’m pretty accustomed to being surrounded by Russian or Flemish being spoken around me, picking up the few words that I recognize, smiling, nodding, and eventually excusing myself to the kitchen to “prepare something.”

In truth, it was a very interesting thing for me to observe, since languages, and particularly bilingualism and/or multilingualism, fascinate me a lot. Watching these couples in action, from backgrounds that were culturally similar, yet geographically diverse, and the interplay of languages, was like being a linguistics major in college all over again. Those were the days . . .

Aside from the Frankish aspect of the Shabbos, the main thing that got my RaggedyNerves in a knot, was the fact that my husband kept emphasizing that the food I usually cook may not appeal to Moroccan tastebuds. Can I help it if I grew up with Polish cooking where a little sugar in anything never hurts? (Except I guess it does hurt my father who has type 2 diabetes, and maybe children who tend toward hyperactivity. But besides that, is sugar really such a bad thing?!) So I rifled through my spice cabinet and tried to incorporate, among some of my classics (sorry, but we are NOT adding cumin to the potato kugel!), some interesting twists on the Shabbos food. I mean Shabbat food. Everything was devoured regardless of the extent of its spiciness.

This Shabbos, RaggedyDad learned that guests from other backgrounds can enjoy chulent as much as flounder in spicy tomoato sauce. I learned that if you want to hear some of the most beautiful singing to ever grace your Shabbos table, invite some Moroccans over. My kids learned fluent French (just kidding!). Our guests learned that Ashkenazi people can be cool. A little. In a word, it was magnifique!


table nine said...

Your guest were tres charmant, as I'm sure was your Polish/Moroccan cuisine! Your Shabbos hospitality is inspiring...perhaps one of these days I'll make good on my invitation & you and the raggedyfam will actually come over for lunch!

HilaHoney said...

Glad to hear that your Shabbat guests were enjoyable! I know what it's like to grow up with people who speak another language that you don't completely understand but can halfway follow. I didn't learn Swedish as a little kid but I can speak it now, so growing up it was always a guessing game to figure out what Farmor and Farfar (Father's Mother and Father's Father, respectively)and Pappa were talking about! You've inspired my next post, so be on the lookout!


Baleboosteh said...

I am so glad to hear it went well, even if the conversation was a little hard to follow at times.

Sounds like it didn't even come close to foot in mouth disease guy!

Neil said...

Even my Russian in-laws make faces when they eat my mother's sweet Polish-influenced Jewish food.

SephardiLady said...

I go through an embarrasing amout of Cumin. But, I agree, it should never be added to a kugel :). BTW-If you ever need a no fail receipe for Sephardi taste buds, drop a note.

Also, I know how if feels to be the least lingual at the table. Just when I was picking up a French word or two recently, the ladies in our group decided to speak Arabic. Basically, I'm an English speaker with some grasp of Hebrew (not enough, and no street Hebrew) who has to navigate through conversations in English, Spanish, French, Arabic, Pharsi, and Hebrew often in the same 5 minute time frame. Oh how I wish I had language skills.

Jack's Shack said...

Sounds nice.

Ezzie said...

Heh. We only invite over people we can understand... we just invite a ton of them.

Sounds quite a bit more pleasant than last week... :)

socialworker/frustrated mom said...

So nice sounds great.

RaggedyMom said...

Table Nine: Thanks for being my cooking's biggest fan! Along with RaggedyDad, that is . . My best recipes are the ones I got from you!

Hila: Where did you grow up btw? And I look forward to reading your next post!

BB: You're right, FIM was in a class all by himself! I guess I am taking it on faith that the Frenchies weren't insulting me in French! LOL, they were great guests.

Neil: Tell me about it! RaggedyDad and the rest of his Russian clan are forever chastising me about what Borscht is supposed to be (according to them, a chunky, spicy, tomato-based cabbage soup). Trying to feed these people something sweet during the meal is akin to heresy.

SephardiLady: Thanks, I may just take you up on it! I sympathize with you - "code switching" - alternating between languages in a conversation or even in the same sentence is convenient and makes the speakers feel a part of an "in group." Only trouble is, it makes those who don't understand feel not "a part," but "apart."

Jack, SWFM: It really was a lot of fun.

Ezzie: Improvement? You betcha! :) I bet having that many people in an apartment talking at once starts to kinda sound like a foreign language!