Lunch with Dr. Orlik

“The menu was multilingual: in Czech, Russian, German, French and English. But whoever had compiled the English page had mistaken the word ‘carp’ for ‘crap.’ Under the heading CRAP DISHES, the list contained ‘Crap soup with paprika’, ‘Stuffed crap’, ‘Crap cooked in beer’, ‘Fried crap’, ‘Crap balls’, ‘Crap a la juive. . . ‘

‘In England,’ I said, ‘this fish is called carp. Crap has a different meaning.’

‘Oh?’ said Dr. Orlik. ‘What meaning?’

‘Faeces,’ I said. ‘Shit.’

I regretted saying this because Utz looked exceedingly embarrassed. The narrow eyes blinked, as if he hoped he hadn’t heard correctly. Orlik’s wheezy carapace shook with laughter.

‘Ha! Ha!’ he jeered. ‘Crap a la juive…My friend Mr. Utz will eat Crap a la juive…!’

I was afraid Utz was going to leave, but he rose above his discomfiture and ordered soup and the ‘Carpe meuniere’. I took the line of least resistance and ordered the same. Orlik clamoured in his loud and crackly voice, ‘No. No. I will eat Crap a la juive…!’

‘And to begin?’ asked the waiter.

‘Nothing,’ said Orlik. ‘Only the crap!’

Bruce Chatwin, Utz

 

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