Budapest: The time I was almost punched in the face at the Hummus Bar
Right up the street from Budapest’s Great Synagogue is the Hummus Bar. We had just ordered – the Shawarma plate for me, the Complete Hummus plate for Lissette – when an older man and his son sat down at the table next to us. The man must have been in his early 70’s, the son in his early 30’s. The older man was a bit of a fiddler; moving his chair around, readjusting the table, his head bobbing between the menu on the wall and the menu in front of him. His son was the impatient type, texting on the phone, then getting up and going outside to make a call.
It was at about that point that our food came to the table. I could feel the older man eyeing my food.
Older man: ‘Excuse me, what is that?’
Me: ‘This is the Shawarma plate’.
The older man is definitely interested, I can see he really likes the look of my food.
Older man: ‘Does it come with all that?’
Me: ‘They give you a choice of two accompaniments with your meat. I chose the lettuce and the hummus’.
He thanked me and went back to looking at his menu. Just then his son came back to the table. They started talking and pointing at items on the menu. The younger man didn’t seem to have any patience for his father. The older man turned back to me, menu in hand.
Older man: ‘I’m sorry, can you show me what you ordered?’
I looked at the menu. He had the Hungarian version on his hand. But I saw the word ‘Shawarma’ there.
Me, pointing on menu: ‘Right there, Shawarma’. And I repeated the accompaniments I had with the meat.
Lissette to the older man: ‘Or you can tell the waiter that you want exactly what he’s got’ pointing at me.
The older man thanked us, apologizing for having taken our time.
Lissette and I were eating and talking when the food arrived at the table next to us. Father and son were quiet, then suddenly talking with voices raised as they studied their plates. The older man turned to me.
Older man: ‘My plate doesn’t look the same as yours’. He pointed at what looked like a stuffed pita.
I looked at his plate, looked at the menu. ‘Yes, it is not the same. Maybe they made a mistake?’
Son and older man talk more, voices rising.
The son now spoke to us for the first time.
Son, pointing at me. ‘You told my father Shawarma. You pointed at this’, poking his finger at the menu. He angrily flipped it over ‘This is what you have. You have the Shawarma plate, he ordered the shawarma pita!’
Me, a bit taken aback ‘Yes, well, I mentioned Shawarma’.
Son: ‘But it is your fault, you pointed at this’ (jabbing his finger at the menu again) ‘when you should have pointed at this’ (angrily stabbing the menu).
There wasn’t much I could say. Except ‘the out’ that you always have as a foreigner.
Me: ‘Well, sorry, I don’t read Hungarian’.
The son murmured under his breath. An uneasy silence hung over everything.
We went back to eating but the mood was now uncomfortable. I asked for the bill. Getting up from the table we looked over at the son and older man and politely wished them a good night.
We walked away, Lissette turning to me: ‘I think the son wanted to get up and punch you in the face. Why do you always get yourself in these situations?’
Other than the unpleasant experience, the food at the Hummus Bar is excellent. The Shawarma plate, the Complete Hummus Plate, and two bottles of mineral water came out to 3660 Forint (before tip). That’s about $17 CAD ($13 USD). We will be back.
If you see us at the Hummus Bar please don’t come and ask me what I’m eating.
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