Friday, January 26, 2001

Dinner and a show‏

Hello everyone!

Well, it seems like it's been a long time since I've written, but I guess it's only been a few days. I guess time just seems to pass slower here.

Anyway, as I recall, I left off right before the big dinner party that we had last Saturday. So, let's start with that.

OK, I was really looking forward to this dinner party that Pernille's parents, Jutte (pronounced like You-tah) and Ole (pronounced like Ola), were hosting. First of all, their house is *perfect* for such parties. They have a sweet stereo system in their living room, with big speakers hanging from the ceiling on both ends of the room. Plus, the living room and dining room are decorated in soft golds, magentas, blues and other colors that just lend themselves to looking fabulous in the rather low, glowing light of a proper party.

For those of you interested in such matters, I wore a short black dress to the party. And, as a jacket over it, I chose my brand new mesh-type one that has ostrich feathers all around the collar and halfway down the front. Plus, my new jewelry (silver choker necklace with blood-red oval hanging stone and matching earrings). And I somehow managed a sophisticated hairstyle reminiscent of early Jackie Kennedy. :-) So, I was actually pretty stylin' and naturally was totally excited for the party.

Pernille's dad, Ole, started in pretty early on the wine. I don't want to criticize him, because I think he's a very nice guy, but I suspect he might be a binge drinker, if 60+ year old men that pretty much only drink wine can be considered binge drinkers. But seriously, every weekend I've been here, he has finished off a couple bottles on his own and then he goes to bed and passes out. So, there you are. Anyway, as I was saying, I think he got started a little early on Saturday, so that by the time I was dressed and ready for the party, he was already drunk. When I came out of my room, he was gushing and gushing (as much as he could with his limited English) about how beautiful I was and then he grabbed me around the waist and for one horrifying moment I thought he was going to kiss me!!! But, instead he just leered at me and then staggered off to go watch TV in his room until the guests arrived. Sweet Jesus!!

But, I recovered nicely and then went into the living room to take some pictures and relax before the party. Well, there was to be no relaxing for me because Jutte came in and turned on the TV and lo! there was that moronic asshole George W. Bush being sworn in as our new president. So, after I finished vomiting in the potted plants, I made myself a stiff drink and sat down to watch the spectacle. Can you even believe this moron had the nerve to CRY after he was sworn in?!! I wanted to be ill. And of course, I was muttering obscenities and exclamations of outrage and disbelief all through his acceptance speech. Pernille's mom must have heard me because she came in then to watch. (She was able to understand what he was saying because they had two journalists from Denmark covering the event. But I could barely hear what Bush was saying over their very loud translation.) Apparently Danish people don't like Bush either, so Jutte and I tried to console each other.

Then the guests started to arrive. In attendance: Aunt Margret (Ole's sister-in-law), Mette (Aunt Margret's daughter), her husband Erhling, their two kids Peter-Oskar and Kasper, Pernille's older sister Vivica, and her two kids Christian and Lisbet, plus her little weiner dog, NaNa. It was quite the assortment.

From the first, everyone was so nice to me! All of them spoke some sort of English and they didn't hesitate to ask me all sorts of questions. Jutte showed them the postcards of Iowa that I had brought with me. They all wanted to know where my city was and where UNI was in relation to that, etc. They were surprised that my school was so far away from my home city. Of course, they have no conception of how big the States is. I mean, for them it's four hours to Germany; for us it's four hours to Omaha or Kansas City. Huge difference.

Aunt Margret (only a nickname, real name something like Bitte) was especially, intensely inquisitive. I figure this is probably due to a number of factors. 1) She had the worst English of anyone and therefore was almost impossible to understand. 2) She is deaf in one ear and therefore can hardly understand what is said to her. 3) She has a very small "personal space" and assumes that everyone else is the same. 4) And naturally, she had been snorking up the onion dip like it was going out of style. So, without a doubt, it only Karmically makes sense that she would be the one who wanted to ask me the most questions. And this is the lady that I had been told earlier wanted to book a few hours of English practice with me. Naturally. :-)

The time for dinner arrived not a moment too soon. I was seated between Kasper and Christian, both of whom were in the third grade, and both of whom looked at me like I was something out of movie. Mostly like a horror movie, really. They didn't speak any English, so everytime I said something to them, they would turn red and try to hide. Fabulous. Mette was very nice, and I got to sit near her, so that was a relief. And I sat across from her husband, and since he was a doctor, his English was pretty good. We talked a lot about politics and America. They could not understand how Bush won and I assured them that nobody in America could either.

The first course was puff pastries filled with salmon and spinach, along with julienned carrots and leeks in a remoulade sauce. To my surprise, all of the kids left the table after eating this course. I thought this was unusual. But apparently, between each course, most of the women disappear to the kitchen in order to wash the dishes and get the next course ready. So, it's kind of like eating in a restaurant and having to wait 10-15 minutes between each course. Interesting. But, they wouldn't let me help, so I was left to sit at the table with the men and Aunt Marget, who was too old to help out.

The kids were recalled and the main dishes were brought out. Roasted beef tenderloin, with boiled potatoes and french fries (I think this selection was mainly for my benefit. Americans=french fries, naturally.), and this absolutely hideous "salad", comprised, I think, of finely minced purple cabbage, apples, and a putrid vinegar concoction. Then it was all mushed together so that it didn't look like a coleslaw or anything, but rather like a fruit salad. UGH.

Dessert was a pear half poached in wine, a candied fig, a date, and two small scoops of vanilla ice cream, all artfully arranged on each plate and drizzled with some of the red wine left over from the poaching. Very tasty!

Of course, throughout the whole dinner, there was wine. White wine, red wine, refills of each, and then some absolutely nasty dessert wine. Heavenly lord, these people drink so much, I just can't emphasize it enough. So naturally, as the evening progressed, the conversation flowed as freely as the wine, and towards the end of the evening, it took some rather graphic turns. (Ehrling showed us all the "gynocologist's handshake", for example.) And once, when I got up to go to the kitchen, Pernille's dad slapped me on the ass. Good grief.

After dinner, I wanted to smoke the Cuban cigars I bought earlier in my trip. I tried to get Ole to smoke one with me, but he took a few puffs and then staggered off, presumably to either throw up or pass out. So, I smoked mine at the table with Ehrling. Since I wasn't allowed to help with the dishes, it felt rather like being a man. Just sitting there, enjoying a glass of wine, smoking a cigar, watching the womenfolk clean up after dinner....ahhh..the good life.

Anyway, the evening as a whole went well. It was a lot of fun to talk to everyone and it was even more fun to try to understand what they were all yelling about in Danish. In some ways they reminded me a lot of my family because they all tended to get really loud and talk at the same time. :-) There were some points in the evening when I wanted to pull an Uncle Pete and shout, "Hey! Keep it to a dull roar!"

OK, so then on Monday, Pernille's boyfriend/fiance/what-the-hell-ever Kieth came into town. And yes, that's how he spells his name, which should give you some indication of his personality. I don't like him very much, but I'll just keep it at that. To be honest, I was kind of feeling like I wanted to leave for Prague a lot sooner than Saturday! Anyway, Pernille and I had made plans to go out to dinner that night with Kasper and his girlfriend. Kasper studied with Pernille in the States and I knew him from UNI, so I was looking forward to dinner.

Anyway, Kasper chose this incredibly beautiful French restaurant, named "Provence". The ceiling was very high and was decorated with gorgeous stained glass. The front windows were covered with several garden-type arches that had vines growing all over them and up the walls. The restaurant wasn't very big...maybe it seated 50 people, but because of the high ceiling, it seemed fairly spacious.

The dinner, and the company, was just delicious. I had the Steak Au Poivre (steak covered in pepper and served with a pepper/red wine sauce), but the kitchen screwed it up and cooked it medium. But, you'd be proud of me, Stephan, because I sucked it up and just ate it the way it was. It wasn't bad, but I don't think I'll be ordering steaks like that in the future. :-) Anyway, that came with a cup of the absolute best vegetable soup I've ever had in my life. It was simply magnificent...the flavors just danced on the tongue! Mmmm!! And also, it came with a side of twice-baked potato, which was similar to Christopher's. For dessert, I had the Creme Brulee. Very good. And, we also were able to enjoy 3 bottles of wine (two red and one white), thanks to Kasper's generous pocketbook. Alcohol at restaurants is VERY VERY expensive, to make up for the cheap food. So, if you order just water in order to avoid buying expensive booze, they charge you for the water. Sometimes up to $2 for *each* glass. Sorry, no free refills here!

We sat and talked a lot about the miserable taxes they have here in Denmark. Kasper and his girlfriend, Jasmine, are dying to find jobs in the States because they can't stand the taxes here. In fact, Kasper has even been studying a huge book of the US Tax Code. I assured him that he would be *very* well prepared to live in the States, considering that most of us never bother reading even a chapter out of that book, let alone the whole damn thing.

Oh, and it was a good thing we had all this to talk about because it was a solid 30 minutes between each course. That has been a hard thing to get used to about eating out here. I'm still in the American mindset of hurry hurry hurry. And, the way that people order here is different, in that most people chose to buy a "menu" instead of buying courses separately. For example, I purchased the 99Kroner menu. That came with an appetizer, a main course with side dishes, and a dessert. And then they have a list of items for each course that you can choose from. And of course, there are more expensive menus. Kasper had the 189Kroner menu, which gave him the option of having lobster for his appetizer. Oh, and here, whenever you go out, everyone gets their own appetizer, instead of ordering 1 or 2 for the table.

OK, well it's getting kind of late and I'm leaving for Prague at 6:30 tomorrow morning. UGH!! So, I'd better end this here. I'll make sure to send an email from Prague!! Take care and I'll talk to you all soon!

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