We were eight people around the table: our neighbors Murat and Selin, their children Ceren and Necat, Jose, me and our two children. As Jose prayed to thank God for our visitors and our food, I looked doubtfully at the beef lasagna with basil tomato sauce and melted cheese. It looked great to me, but would they like it? I cut it and served it carefully onto each person’s plate. I felt butterflies rising in my stomach when I noticed Murat staring at his plate, his forehead furrowed over piercing brown eyes.
“What do we do with this?” he asked, looking at the lasagna.
“Well,” I said, “What do you mean? Um…we eat it.” My children Andres and Camille giggled and whispered to each other.
“Oh, I just wondered,” Murat said, “How do you eat it? Do you put yogurt on top of this? Do we just cut it with our knives and forks? What is it?”
Oh great, I thought. This evening is off to a brilliant start. Everyone at the table, including Jose, looked at me waiting for an explanation of what lasagna was and how to eat it. My face went red, and I felt irritated inside. Even if he’d never had lasagna before, at least he could be more polite about it. My enjoyment of the dinner I’d worked to prepare was spoiled.
Murat and Selin managed to eat the lasagna, and they said how good it was, but I could see that their children had a hard time eating it. They looked relieved when the meal was over, and I poured glasses of familiar, steaming Turkish tea.
When at last everyone left, I remembered Murat staring at his plate. Did he not realize how embarrassed he’d made me feel? What was wrong with me anyway? Couldn’t I even cook a decent meal that my new friends would like? My face flushed all over again with embarrassment.