Anyway, like two plums, we stood in that deli for an inordinate amount of time, letting people brush past us to get to the front, whilst we took everything in. Gazing from a distance at the curious meats hanging, the cheeses chilling and the vast amount of bread that was on display, we simply murmered to each other. No proper conversation. Just a sort of furtive, whispered bumbling, with no real movement of lips.
"Um, wha...what do you er think? Do we.....do we eat? Shall we ask the people if they can....the people behind the counter...you know, shall we...... ask them what we can eat? Cos like, I am really hungry but I....I don't know what the hell any of this is.....I mean, can we eat this stuff? Yes?"
After ten minutes or so, Big Al bravely piped up and nodded forward, saying that he was going to go simple and ask for ham on focaccia. Or 'fo-caa-cha'. Which is how he pronounced it.
I looked at this stack of bread on the shelf behind the counter that Big Al was nodding at, that was clearly labelled 'focaccia' and I grabbed his arm.
"No! Don't say it like that!"
"Because you pronounce it like this..............fok-ka-chia."
"No you don't."
"Yes you do!"
"It's fo-caa-cha, not fok-ka-chia"
"Listen, it's fucking fok-ka-chia, not fucking fo-caa-cha."
"Dan, it's fo-caa-cha."
Big Al said this through gritted teeth by the way, smiling straight ahead.
"No, it's fok-ka-chia and if you go up there with your fo-caa-cha, that bloke over there with the big bushy beard is going laugh his tits off at you."
"Why don't you order your fok-ka-chia first then? And we'll see what happens."
Admittedly, up until then, I hadn't even thought about ordering foccacia. Or fok-ka-chia for that matter. But as Big Al was standing there with a glint in his eye and looking all smug-like, I decided that I would go for it. Like I said, there was a lot at stake. So I stepped up to the counter and peered over the glass panel and in the most authoritative tone I could muster, said:
"Hi there, can I get a fok-ka-chia with cheese please? To TAKEAWAY!" (That last bit was uttered in a rather high pitch)
"Fok-ka-chia with cheese?" asked the man with the beard.
"Yes, fok-ka-chia with cheese........that cheese, please," I replied, pointing urgently at some non-descript round of yellow cheese, that possibly could have been gouda.
"OK," he said cooly, with not one flinch of dischord. "You want that cheese melted?"
"Yeah, why not," I replied, emboldened with a new found confidence, thinking he must have one of those iron press type.....things.
"Comin' right up."
I turned around to Big Al and delivered a gloating smile of my own and casually leaned on the countertop, one arm cocked, to represent my cockiness; whilst Mr Beard did his business with his back turned to me.
A minute or so later, he twirled around, perched a brown paper bag on the glass and told me that my order was ready.
"There you go buddy, chocolate chip cookie with cheese, that'll be two dollars."
Being terribly British and not wanting to cause a fuss, I didn't react. I just calmly reached for my wallet, plucked out two notes, handed them over, grabbed the bag and walked straight out into the glorious sunshine.
I didn't even look at Big Al on the way out. The heat of his jubilation radiating, pulsing outwards was more than I could bear. Once outside and a fair way down the road, after say about a mile, I stopped and leaned my back against a wall. I opened the bag and peered in. And there it was. A huge chocolate chip cookie, smothered with this congealed and rapidly browning crust of cheese. I took a small bite and have never felt so mournful in my life.
Fair play to Al though. Once he caught up with me and got over his hysterics, he did suggest that fok-ka-chia, said with an Essex accent, could, just could sound like chocolate chip cookie to the untrained Canadian ear. Later, over a pint of Rickard's Red, he even enthused that cheese covered biscuits could well be a 'thing' in Toronto and maybe it was. But I doubt it.
No, somewhere there is a dude with a beard that is greying and every now and then, he will regale upon the time he served up a chocolate chip cookie, topped with molten cheese to some gormless, pale English kid.
And all because he didn't know how to say "Focaccia."
|"This is not the fok-ka-chia I asked for"|