Monday, October 8, 2012

Fontaine Delisnack

There have been a lot of recent studies of late. One suggests that redundancy is increasingly becoming a growing problem in literature. Another study, carried out by Italian researchers, reveals that male genitalia are shrinking every year. A similar French study reveals that Italian researchers only study themselves. And furthermore, the crazy, whacko views of misinformed people who are mistaken about something only tend to be reinforced when presented with facts that refute their insane, nutty opinions.

This would help to explain the evangelization of my home country despite the discovery of the Higgs boson. “But there’s a reason it’s called the God Particle”, they counter. The star of “Real Time with Bill Maher”Bill Maherwould likely refer to it as the "Willy boson" (“Willy” and “Bill” are both short for “William”).

This would also help to explain why Estonians are increasingly beginning to firmly suspect that all Latvians have six toes. This is a stereotype whose origins I was too lazy to research, but regardless of Latvians’ supposed polydactylous tendencies, I can assure you that on my recent trip to Riga, the shoes on sale looked normal. I did, however, see a street vendor pedaling frozen ice cream (“saldējums” in Latvian, if you’re not Estonian and so didn’t know that). He was wearing sandals and only had four toes on each foot. But his toes, like all Latvians, were super long, so total toeage was still equal. I’m trying to create a new stereotype, you see. And all Latvians have a Pioneer sound system in their cars. That’s also a stereotype.

Mrs. Mingus and I were meandering down Teātra iela (Theater Street) in Riga when we happened upon a place called Fontaine Delisnack. Their Facebook page calls it “Fontaine Deli Snack” and describes it as “slow fast food”. Interesting information available under Basic Info on this page: their food styles are breakfast, burgers, Chinese and delis. What’s your favorite food style? Breakfast and delis. Their specialties are—breakfast, lunch, coffee and drinks. Their services are “good for kids”. That’s a bit dodgy, to be honest.

But being a self-described burgermeister, I had to try their…burger. I watched the chef preparing a burger for another customer. He opened an individually packaged package of ground beef made of bovine flesh (I’m still feeling redundant) and proceeded to cook it. This is much better than the usual hamburger patties that are purchased by the restaurant frozen and already shaped. This burger was shaped by hand. I took a picture of him holding and preparing it, but as most Latvians do not appear when photographed, I am not including the image in this post, as floating beef might frighten my younger readers.

I did have to ask if fries were included. They were not, so now you know, too. But Fontaine’s slow fast food wasn’t actually that slow. Within just a few minutes our burgers were served. In a paper pouch. I wanted to ask Kristīna, the waitress, for a plate, but as most Latvian waitresses do not appear when called, I had to go to the bar and ask. “You need a plate?” she asked in reply to my question.
—Yes, please. Two, in fact.
—There are two of us.
“No, I mean why do you need a plate?”
I did not know how to respond to this question. I contemplated telling her that I was Estonian and so did not know how to eat from paper, but I ended up just telling her that I would just feel more comfortable with a plate. She did not sigh, however, and complied with my request.

The fries were a bit crunchy, smothered in Santa Maria’s pan-Baltic requirement for post-Soviet-hood—the potato seasoning—but they were served in a disposable cardboard box, American-style (well, that is, when you eat at slow fast food establishments in the US). The burger itself was actually fairly tasty. It was cooked perfectly, as was the bacon. Nice and juicy. The bun was a bit crunchy though. I think the bun chef and the French fry chef were the same, but they were working behind a mirror so I couldn’t see them (the man in the photograph of the bar is not Latvian).

On the way back to Estonia, we stopped at a gas station. This place was pretty cool, in my opinion. Boardwalks with gazebos among tall pines, a pond, an air pump, and the new Latvian prototype of the 4-D camera. I found a map of the premises. Interesting words. Oddly enough, parked right next to it was a dairy tanker, transporting milk, with the Latvian word for milk printed in huge letters on an image of a bag of milk on the side (“piens”). So when you’re in Latvia, you can buy a big old bag of piens if you want.

Not to sound unfairly disrespectful of other peoples’ languages, I would also like to point out that there is a man in Estonia named Tiit Annus. He hasn’t consumed Latvian milk now for twelve months but he also doesn’t speak English either, because if he did, he would probably be rather annoyed with his parents.

On a more serious note, I’ve always heard there is a bit of enmity between the Estonians and the Latvians, mostly because of what became of “Baltic solidarity” after independence was restored. This is just hearsay, mind you, not based on fact (even if I heard a fact though, I would ignore it because I’m American). The Baltic States were united in their drive for freedom from the Soviet Union. Once they succeeded, Estonia grabbed on to Finland and Scandinavia as tightly as they could, and somewhat ignored Latvia and Lithuania. Which is understandable of course, given the situation.

Estonia’s economic recovery has been much stronger, for example, resulting in their switch to the euro, while Latvia did not qualify. A recent study carried out by Estonian researchers reveals evidence to support this. Another recent study carried out by Latvian researchers reveals that Estonian researchers only study the same four or five people (see the quotations starting on p. 80). And yet another recent study by me reveals that if you publish anything, you should probably run a spell check befroe publishing it.

Yet despite international stereotypes, I just hadn’t met that many Latvians in all my years in Estonia. I didn’t have an opinion of them. I do now. The twenty or thirty Latvians I actually got to know during my trip all had one thing in common: they were very enthusiastic. It was very easy to converse with them. They are eager to laugh. They are fun. Regardless of whether they have an extra toe or not, they do seem to have a sixth sense for what you are going to say next, they all speak at least two tongues, and your average Latvian man doesn’t look down his noses at anyone.