Well, it turns out we will not be making it to Church in Sicily after all. Due to the 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew in Tunis, our ferry was delayed. It was supposed to depart at 10 p.m. on Saturday night, but ended up rescheduling for 10 a.m. on Sunday morning instead. Or to be precise, we got up at 5 a.m. so that we could arrive two hours earlier than the ferry’s scheduled departure time. After having our passports scrutinized at no fewer than six checkpoints between entering the ferry terminal and boarding the ferry, we finally stepped onto the polished marble and granite deck (of course. This is Italy). I don’t know if this is an instance of Tunisian Standard Time or Italian Standard Time. Either way, the fact remains that it is now 1:30 p.m., and I am sitting on my top bunk in our little family cabin as Dominique naps on the bottom bunk. There is still no sign of an imminent departure, unless you count the multiple announcements in Italian, English, French and Arabic (so helpful when your child is trying to take his nap in an unfamiliar bed) telling people that the cafeteria is about to close. So it’s anyone’s guess what time we’ll actually arrive in Palermo.
Fortunately, we’ve brought along plenty of supplies. We went out shopping last night for last minute food and essentials for the trip. While we were out, we stopped for dinner at a restaurant. I’ll just say I was feeling very hungry. We ordered a mechouia salad (delicious minced grilled vegetables), a Tunisian salad, a briq, a pizza Margarita (which has been the children’s standard since I used to buy the frozen imported Italian ones at Trader Joes before we ever moved to Italy), a Neptune pizza (which was brought out looking like a Margarita with canned tuna sprinkled on top, and had to be sent back for the chef to plop on some olives and capers), ojja with merguez sausage, a salami sandwich, four fresh-squeezed orange juices, and one large mineral water. Unbeknownst to us, fish soup is apparently included in every meal, so we ate that also. And they brought us free french fries too (I think to atone for the mistake on the Neptune pizza), with a prodigious side of squiggly mayonnaise that had obviously been painstakingly squeezed out of a thin plastic bottle for our benefit.
In Tunisian restaurants, the food generally arrives in the order in which it finishes cooking, without particular regard to which are appetizers and which are entrees, or the desirability of everyone eating at the same time. I’ve discussed the size of tables (link) at Tunisian cafes already, but this restaurant had fairly normal-sized tables. Still, somewhere halfway through the random arrivals of food, and to our extreme embarrassment, the waiter had to bring someone out to help move another table next to ours so we could fit all the food. To make matters yet worse, at the end of the meal we ordered a whole rotisserie chicken to take with us on the ferry the next day. I guess if the Tunisians didn’t already have opinions about gluttonous Americans, they do now. In the end, it turned out that I actually was pretty hungry. But we ended up with quite a bit of leftover pizza, and almost an entire leftover salami sandwich. The sandwich really wasn’t Axa’s fault. She specifically ordered the salami sandwich without tuna, rather than the salami sandwich with tuna. But they put tuna on it anyway, as well as a random omelette. Someday we’ll face up to the fact that in Tunisia no matter what you order, you should expect it to come sprinkled with tuna.
Tony asked the waiter to box up the pizza and sandwich for us, since we thought it would be great to also have some cold pizza to supplement the food we’d brought for our trip.
When we got home we opened the box, only to find this lurid display:
Guess what? We repackaged it ourselves (even less aesthetically) in a large tupperware, and brought it along. In fact, we just now ate it for lunch here on the ferry. Yum, yum.