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Satisfying a longing for an American meal

Once per international trip, I desire American food, and then for the duration I happily go on eating the cuisine of the country.

The hankering usually comes over me at an unexpected time like when I was in Kyoto Japan at a Buddhist temple high up on a hilltop sharing moments of serenity with a Buddhist monk. Instead, I envisioned a thick slice of pizza covered with rich tomato sauce rather than paying attention to the moment drinking herbal tea. Believe it or not, that's what I ate for dinner that evening and it completed my day on a quest for nourishment both spiritually and physically.

In this particular case, I went inside an ultra modern Red Square Moscow food court to see what was offered, and after examining poke bowls, sushi, Russian dumplings and Thai booths, I settled on a veggie burger. Frankly, I had not had a taste of home in three weeks by then, and a juicy burger - veggie burgers properly made are not stiff as cardboard - on a toasted bun sounded good to me. The price for a burger and Coke converted to five American dollars, which made my decision more to my liking.

The place was crowded with customers who were ordering and taking their food trays to tables located around the edge. It could be anywhere in the world for that matter listening to the smattering of languages. Again I will mention the amazing cleanliness of Russian people - the Polish, Lithuanians, Latvians and Estonians, too. There was not an empty table with leftover food wrappers, and the floor was free of garbage.

It was difficult getting what I wanted across to a young clerk hardly speaking English, so my fail-safe method was to point to the picture on the menu. She sent my order slip to the back of the large stand for the cooking staff. Almost immediately the chef came out in his "whites" and was frustrated explaining to me in his sparse English that I had ordered a speciality item and it would take about twenty minutes longer. When I asked if I could change my order thinking it might simplify things, he said that it was against the rules, and I would have to wait. He wasn't too happy with me, and the clerk at the cash register couldn't help negotiate either. I realized that they were employees and had to stick to what was expected of them. Not one to be a problem customer and add to the reputation of rude and demanding Americans, I stood back and waited not allowing the chef's "looks to kill" get me down.

When my order came to me at the counter exactly twenty minutes later, the chef pushed it to me without a glance or smile. I said, "thank you" to thin air. I had been warned by my tour guide that in most situations Russians were not effusive by nature, and often didn't look you in the eye, so I let it go. Well, almost. Still, I felt uneasy.

The veggie burger was freshly made and cooked to perfection by a chef who knew what he was doing. It was worth the wait after taking the first bite. When I was on my way out, I passed by the stand to tell the clerk that I was pleased with my meal and thereby, hoped I could leave a good lasting impression. She was busy with other customers and never glanced my way.

I satisfied my desire for American food for the remainder of my trip. As for the night life, I did that, too.

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