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Brand, D. (2019). Sardines, or the Dissolution of Otherness. Psychoanal. Perspect., 16(3):362-363.
After a morning of sightseeing some distance away from the center of Lisbon, my favorite travel companion and I decided to hike back. We plotted what appeared to be the best route and set off. Unfortunately, the course we choose was hilly, rather drab, and it was already nearly 100° F.
Hungry, parched, and exhausted, my companion spotted a non-descript restaurant for a quick pit stop. We stepped inside and I momentarily hesitated – this downtrodden hole-in-the-wall luncheonette was smoke filled, and crowded with what appeared to be laborers, pensioners, and some mildly unsavory looking folks, and just not the sort of place we usually dine at when we vacation. But it was too hot to argue, and there was no other place in the vicinity, so we made our way to the only unoccupied table and sat down.
As we entered, the lunchtime hubbub seemed to give way to an awkward silence. I was suddenly very self-conscious. We were the “others” and had intruded on a place that had probably never before had tourists for patrons. As the murmur resumed, our waiter brought us menus, and we were confronted with our next challenge. He spoke no English, and neither of us spoke Portuguese. My companion is fluent in Spanish, however, and somehow she was able to convey our desperate need for water, which he brought in 2 mammoth plastic bottles a moment later.
Next, we were challenged by the menu. We can usually find our way around foreign language menus, but for some reason this one seemed undecipherable. When our waiter returned shortly after to take our order, our communication difficulties continued. We were rifling through the translation section of our guidebooks in a futile attempt to figure out what to eat and we were getting frustrated. So was he. The restaurant murmur has quieted down again – was everyone in the restaurant watching us? That’s when a kind Spanish-and-Portuguese-speaking soul sitting at the next table offered to assist us. What a relief! We had heard that the sardines in Portugal were unusual, so we ordered one plate of sardines and another plate of salmon. The ordering ordeal was finally over and the lunchtime buzz of the place eventually resumed.
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