I’d just finished teaching a long evening class at the University when I slumped into the back seat of a taxi. I was dead tired and wanted only to sit quietly during my ride home. It was blissfully quiet for a few moments until the driver cleared his throat and broke the silence.
I groaned to myself as I really didn’t want to make the effort to talk. Nevertheless, I am essentially a polite person and find it hard to be rude. So, I reluctantly entered into the conversation.
Here is a translation (from Spanish to English) of our exchange:
TAXI DRIVER: How long have you been in Peru?
LARRY: Almost fifteen years now.
TAXI DRIVER: Oh, how do you like it?
LARRY: Well, I am happy here.
I knew instinctively what the next inevitable question would be:
TAXI DRIVER: How do you like Peruvian food?
Now I knew that we were in for a full conversation.
LARRY: I like it very much and my wife, who is Peruvian, is a very good cook.
TAXI DRIVER: You are very lucky to have a Peruvian wife to cook good food for you.
LARRY: Yes, you are right. I am lucky. She is a very good cook.
TAXI DRIVER: Oh, what is your favorite dish?
LARRY: Well, I have many favorites, but I especially like ceviche, lomo saltado and aji de gallina.
Being polite, I then asked him what his favorite dish was.
TAXI DRIVER: (getting excited) I just love duck with rice ( arroz con pato). My mother always makes it for me on my birthday… Yum (loose translation). Then there is the kid goat with beans (getting more excited and starting to wave his hands in the air) and my mother’s chicken soup is wonderful. But my all time favorite is ceviche (fish marinated in lime juice) —waving his hands even more vigorously and pounding the steering wheel.
By this time, I was getting concerned. He was a little too excited. So, I diverted him from his mother’s cooking to a discussion about the wonderful fruits we have in Peru.
LARRY: I love the fruit here. It is inexpensive and has a wonderful flavor
TAXI DRIVER: (Calming down) Yes you are right. I always start the day with a nice papaya juice. It is wonderful for your health. I also love the pineapple— so tasty.
LARRY: We also have lots of vegetables—excellent quality and low prices, too.
TAXI DRIVER: (Much less enthusiastic) Yes you are right.
Just about then we reached my house and I warmly said goodbye to the taxi driver. His enthusiasm had restored my sagging energy.
I also realized that I was now very hungry.