Years ago, before we lived here, we were in London, window-shopping with another couple. The wife spotted a figurine she wanted to add to her collection. They discussed it a bit, as it was rather expensive, then decided to buy it.
She asked if the husband had a check.
He opened his wallet and pulled a single, unattached, folded, check out and handed it to her.
As an American who never left home without a full checkbook, and regularly had at least 50 to reconcile at the end of the month, I thought that was more than just a bit bizarre.
Then we moved to Ireland.
I soon learned that carrying around a single check was the norm, not the exception. Checks were only used when one didn't have time to get the cash to pay someone who didn't accept bank cards.
In other words: rarely.
We lived there a year and I think I used about 25 checks.
I've been writing a few more than usual since we've moved: to pay for the windows, the first electric bill, first phone bill (while setting up the auto-pay). Last week I wrote one to pay for the stairs we ordered. I noted that there were only 5 left in the checkbook…. And wondered if I needed to do something. I didn't get a chance.
Like magic, three days later a new checkbook arrived in the post.
I haven't carried a checkbook since we've lived on this side of the pond. I do carry a single check in my wallet. I've even used it on occasion.
It's a little thing, this difference in handling checks; but it represents something huge.
The first time I saw my friend pull out a single, folded check I remember thinking: What's with him? Doesn't he know he can carry the whole checkbook with him? Is he afraid he can't control his spending if he has more checks? How weird!
I hadn't traveled much at that point.
People who don't travel tend to see the world through their own, often narrow field of vision.
They look at other cultures actions and reactions as their own…. And don't understand when they are different.
I know many people who don't travel – and, yes, not traveling tends to be American rather than European.
The reasons are many and varied, but often come down to things like:
Why should I leave this country, I haven't seen everything here yet.
Why should I travel to 'X' country, they hate Americans.
Here's why you should:
If you traveled, you wouldn't be surprised when I said we didn't have a local cupcake shop.
If you traveled, you wouldn't be surprised to learn that you can't get lunch in a restaurant before 12:00 in France; or after 2:00. But, in Spain you can't get lunch before 2:00….
If you traveled you would learn that it's disrespectful to enter a church: with a baseball cap on, or in short shorts, or without your arms covered, or without your head covered, or without shoes, or with shoes or all of the above, or none of the above.
If you traveled you would learn that behavior that is acceptable in your country may not be acceptable elsewhere.
If you traveled you would learn that behavior that is unacceptable in your country may be acceptable elsewhere.
If you traveled you would learn that people are different in different cultures. You may grasp the fact, intellectually, without ever leaving your hometown. But, without traveling, without meeting new people, seeing new places, experiencing new cultures, you won't understand it.
Without understanding it, we are doomed to thinking that our own culture is the best and we have a right and duty to help the rest of the world see the error of their ways. We know that, once enlightened to the superiority of our ways, these lesser cultures will be forever grateful.
Does anyone know how many different countries/cultures know that theirs is the best? And feel pity on anyone not blessed to be 'one of them'?
I can think of at least 6…..
Kind of scary isn't it?
On a lighter note…..
You all know about the famous or infamous 'rude' French waiters, right?
Did you all know that there is no French word for 'rude'?
Barbecued Stuffed Pork Tenderloin
It doesn't take a lot of stuffing… And it kind of oozes out the top…. But, it does get nicely caramelized on top and keeps the pork moist. Cook the pork, stuffing side up, without turning, in a covered grill.
1 pork tenderloin, 14oz, 400gr
2 tsp olive oil
1 1/2 tsp paprika
1 clove garlic, minced or crushed
1/3 cup chopped mushrooms about 1 oz (50gr)
1 1/2 tbs bread crumbs
1 tbs ketchup
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbs snipped fresh rosemary substitute 1 tsp dried
1 tbs snipped fresh chives substitute 1 tsp dried
Chop mushrooms and mince or crush garlic. Heat olive oil in small skillet over medium heat. Add paprika and sauté for 1 minute. Add mushrooms and garlic and sauté for 3 – 4 minutes, until starting to brown and soften.
Meanwhile, butterfly pork tenderloin – cut it in half lengthwise leaving 1/4 inch intact – so that you can open it like a book. Open it and give it a couple of whacks with a meat mallet so that it lies flattish… or pound lightly with the edge of a plate. You just want it to be flat and easy to work with. When mushrooms are done put into a small bowl and add bread crumbs, herbs, Worcestershire and ketchup. Mix well and spread on one side of pork about 1/8 inch from the edge. Fold other side over and tie with kitchen string. Cut five 6 inch lengths of string and wrap around pork and tie every 2 inches – making certain that you do one as close to each end as possible.
Cook pork on barbecue grill for 30 minutes or until done, basting during the last 10 minutes with Barbecue Sauce. When done, slice and serve with more Barbecue Sauce on the side.
1/4 cup (2oz, 60ml) ketchup
1/2 cup (4oz, 120ml) tomato sauce
2 tbs cider vinegar
2 tbs molasses
1 tbs Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp dry mustard
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp garlic powder
Mix all ingredients in small sauce pan and bring to a boil over medium heat stirring frequently. Simmer 10 – 15 minutes, remove from heat and use when needed. Sauce will keep for a week in the refrigerator.
What is also kind of scary are the trips my mind can take on the way back from our letter box……