Looking ahead to Christmas, I'm trying to plan the menu that we'll share with a couple of friends who aren't going home for the holidays. Because food shopping sometimes means visiting two to three stores here before finding just what I'm looking for, I took advantage of being in Madrid last night and visited El Corte Inglés, the national department store that (usually) has everything. Their supermarket is located in the basement, and has such a wide variety of food that I was certain I could waltz right in and get what I needed. After all, the same store in a different part of the city always had the ingredients I needed for the Israeli cous cous with apples and cranberries dish that I want to make for the holidays.
After finding the supermarket, only accessible by the elevator (naturally, with no signs to point you in that direction), I went looking for the kosher section. When I lived in Madrid previously, the Israeli cous cous was not located with the regular cous cous (that would be too easy), but instead in the kosher section. I hunted for it to no avail, so I finally decided to ask an employee. The conversation that ensued was, in a word, priceless. (It was in Spanish, but I'll simplify it and just give you the gist of it in English.)
Me: "Hi, do you have a section for kosher foods?"
Employee: (confused look) "For what?"
Me: "Um, kosher foods." I'm pronouncing kosher with a Spanish accent, hopeful that it will help me get what I'm looking for.
Employee: (confused look still on his face) "What kind of food?"
Me: "Kosher...Kosher. (Now I'm pronouncing it with my American accent.) It's...food that Jewish people eat." (My mistake was in saying judéos which is incorrect...the correct Spanish word is judíos. You see, judías are beans and I got confused, definitely not wanting to call Jewish people beans.)
Employee: (confused look plastered on his face) "Who?"
Me: "Jews." (Still incorrectly saying that word...but come on, it's close. It's like saying Franch instead of French.)
Me: "Jews. ...JEWS." Now I'm speaking English. I feel as though this must be clear now.
By now, I'm feeling like I'm being derogatory, but I'm trying to be clear, and I just want my Israeli cous cous. I can't be that incomprehensible! Apparently this guy had no clue what kosher food was, and "Jews" is not coming across in almost-Spanish or English. I found myself doing a little shake of my shoulders as I say "Jews," immediately feeling ridiculous and knowing this man is not understanding one thing I'm saying. Apparently Tevye and the most wonderful musical ("Fiddler on the Roof") came to my subconscious. Thankfully I didn't quite do this:
Me: "I'm looking for Israeli cous cous, like normal cous cous but a bit larger. Normally it's in the kosher section."
Thankfully, said employee stopped laughing and found someone much more helpful, although not helpful enough to find a kosher section and my beloved Israeli cous cous.