My blog

Uncategorized

Conversation strategies: Asking politely

Episode 8

Making requests

Sometimes you need to ask to do something or ask someone to do something. 

  • You can use Do you mind if + subject + verb . . . ? to ask permission to do something:

Do you mind if I look around? ( = Can I look around?)

  • You can use Would you mind + verb + -ing . . . ? to ask someone to do something:

Would you mind helping me in the kitchen? ( = Can you help me?)

You can use No to agree to requests with Do you mind if . . . ? and Would you mind + verb  + -ing . . . ?:

A: Do you mind if I open the window? 

B: No, go ahead.

A: Would you mind helping me with my project? 

B: No, not at all.

The tricky part is the answer. In both examples, No means “I don’t mind. It’s not a problem.”

Do you mind = would it be a problem?

What’s the difference between do you mind if I and would you mind?

  1. Do you mind means if… means _________ do something?
  2. Would you mind + ing means __________ do something?

Agreeing to requests

You can use Yes or No to agree to requests. Use Yes to agree to requests with Can and Could:

A: Can I look around? 

B: Yes. / Sure. / Go (right) ahead.

A: Could you chop the potatoes? 

B: Yes. / Sure. / Yeah, no problem. / OK.

On the other hand, if questions start with do you mind if I or would you mind say No.

A: Do you mind if I look around? 

B: No, go (right) ahead. / No, not at all.

A: Would you mind helping me in the kitchen? 

B: No, not at all. / Oh, no. No problem. I’m happy to help.

A case where you would yes as an answer:

A: It’s really cold and someone says Do you mind if I open the window?

B: Yes, I do mind. It’s really cold. (You are not giving permission)

B: No, not at all. (Go ahead open the window)

To listen to the episode, click the button below.

Uncategorized

Conversation strategies: Responding to suggestions

Episode 7

Picture this, you meet with your friends and would like to go to a coffee shop. One of them suggests: Why don’t’ we go to Starbucks? How do you respond to that suggestion?

  • Suggestions that we like

You can use these expressions to respond to suggestions that you like:

A: We could go to a bar.  B: That’s a great idea.

A: Why don’t we have Chinese? B: Sure

A: Let’s go to that coffee shop that serves coffeetails. B: That sounds great!

By the way, there is a coffeeshop that sells coffeetails, like cocktails but with coffee. It’s a little hole in the wall in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I was actually going to another coffee shop but I kind of got lost and ended up going to this little café called “Graft café”. If you ever go to Chiang Mai and are a coffee lover, I highly suggest you check out this tiny, unique coffee place.

So, if someone suggests going to Graft café, I will always say That’s a great idea! Or That sounds great!

  • Suggestions we don’t like

You won’t always want to accept a suggestion. For example: There’s a Peruvian dish I hate called “Olluquito”. If someone suggests having Olluquito for lunch, I would probably say: “I don’t know. I don’t really like that dish”.

To respond to suggestions that you don’t like you can use these expressions:

Suggestions we don’t like

A: We could have a pizza or something. B: I don’t know. We had pizza last weekend.

A: Why don’t we have an early dinner? B: I guess we could but then I’ll get hungry again by midnight.

A: Let’s have vegetarian. B: Maybe, but you know it’s hard to find good vegetarian restaurants here.

A: Why don’t we have pasta? B: I guess we could, but we’re in Thailand you know? Thai food makes more sense.

If someone suggests going to a vegetarian restaurant in my city, I wouldn’t be so excited about it because there aren’t really good vegetarian restaurants and the few good ones are kind of expensive. Chiang Mai, on the other hand, is well-known for offering good and affordable vegetarian food. Here I had the best Pad Thai made with papaya noodles; it was absolutely delicious.

After making a negative response, people usually offer an explanation or excuse:

 A:  We could just work remotely and go backpacking for a few months.  B: I don’t know. I’d like to, but it’s not that easy. I doubt my boss would agree to that. (a little dosis of reality there).

I guess

You can use I guess when you’re not 100% sure about something or if you don’t want to sound 100% sure. It can make what you say sound softer:

 A:  We could just work remotely and go backpacking for a few months.  B:  I guess it’s not that easy.

A: Let’s go window shopping. B: Maybe. It’s actually kind of risky, though. I guess I could end up buying something I can’t afford.

To listen to this episode click on the button below.

Uncategorized

Conversation strategies: Checking information

Episode 6

In a conversation, you may need to check something that you didn’t hear or understand. Now, think about ways you check for information you didn’t hear in your mother tongue, what do you say? Are there any phrases you say to ask someone to repeat something? Well, in English there are different ways we can do that.

Now, let me tell you a little about the examples I’ll be using in this podcast.

All these examples are true for me. They are contextualized with my recent trips. The reason why I use real examples is because I want to show how these conversation strategies could be used in real conversations. When I recorded this podcast, I was in Spain. Barcelona was my first stop, then I went to Granada and finally, Seville, so all these examples are about these amazing cities.

Today I’ll show you 4 strategies to check information.

You can:

  1. use the expression Did you say . . . ? or What did you say? to check information

A:  There’s usually about a 13-minute wait for the bus.

B: Did you say thirteen or thirty?

A: I said 13, so you can cross the road and get that ice cream you want before the bus comes.

2. repeat words as a question to check information. Just say the same you heard, or what you think you heard.

A:  Well, there’s a Moroccan estaurant within walking distance.

B:  Within walking distance?

A: Yes, it’s around the corner.´

3.  use the expression I’m sorry? or Excuse me? to ask the speaker to repeat what he or she said

A:  Are there any markets to shop around here?

B:  Excuse me? Did you say markets to shop?

A: Yeah, I mean, local markets.

A: Which bus should I take to the Alhambra?

B: I’m sorry? Did you say to the Alhambra?

A: Yeah

B: Oh, you should take the C32.

4. Ask an “echo” question, which is to repeat something you heard and add a question word to check the information you didn’t hear:

A: There’s a Turkish tea shop on the Main Avenue.

B: I’m sorry. There’s a tea shop where?

A: On the Main Avenue, it’s right in front of the bank.

In this case the question word is “where”, other question words are what, who, when and how. Before you ask a question word you need to know what the question is about, for example if someone says “There’s a Turkish tea shop on the Main Avenue.” And the focus is the place, my question word is going to be “where”. There’s a tea shop where?

Another example:

A: Is there an ice cream place around here? 

B:  I’m sorry, a what?

A: An ice cream place. I heard about a famous Italian ice parlor on Gran Via Avenue.

In this case if the information I didn’t hear was ice cream parlor, the question word should be “what”, I’m sorry, a what?

Now think about how to ask an echo question with a question word after the following statements. I’ll give you some time to think about the question and then will give you the answer. Here we go:

A: The sandwich that sells the Iberian ham opens at 11:00am.  (The information you missed is the time.)

B:  Excuse me? It opens at what time?

A: After Granada, I’m headed to Seville. (The information you missed is the place where I’m headed after Granada)

B: I’m sorry, you’re headed where?

A: Breakfast and dinner is included in this hostel? The information you missed is what is included)

B: Excuse me? what is included?

A: We’re flying to Amsterdam the day after tomorrow. (The information you missed is the time)

B: You’re flying to Amsterdam when?

A: I’m meeting Giannina in Miami next year. (The information you missed is the person I’m meeting)

B: You’re meeting who?

Let’s summarize

  1. Use the questions Did you say . . . ? or What did you say?
  2. Repeat words as a question to check information. Just say the same you heard, or what you think you heard.
  3. Use the expression I’m sorry? or Excuse me?
  4. Use echo questions plus a question word.

To listen to the episode, click the button below.

Uncategorized

Conversation strategies: Correcting information in a conversation

Episode 5

In written English, letters, emails, reports, etc we have the chance to correct our mistakes, we can even use tools that help us correct grammar and spelling. However, in spoken English, what is said, has already been said and we can’t change it. That is why it’s important to learn strategies to correct ourselves.

When you make a mistake in English, how do you correct yourself? Well, today we will learn a new strategy: how to correct information in a conversation.

Using “well”, “actually” and “no, wait”

You can correct the things you say with expressions like well, actually and no, wait

A:  Is this you in the photo? Look at how cute you were…

B : Thank you. Yes, that was me. I was 4 in that photo. No, wait, I was 3.

A: Do you remember much about kindergarten?

B:  Not really. Well, I remember my first day of class, my teacher gave me a lollipop because I wouldn’t stop crying, it worked!  Do you remember your first day of school?

A:  Yes, I think so. No, wait… I remember my first day at elementary school, not kindergarten. You have a good memory. To be honest, I don’t remember much from when I was little.

B: I do! I remember there was a tiny bed in my classroom. No kidding. Well, it wasn’t a bed, it was more a little crib.

A: You must be talking about day care, not kindergarten.

B: No, it was Kindergarten, I’m sure. I remember the classroom, my teacher, my classmates and everything…

A: That’s crazy, a bed in the classroom?

B: Yeah, I mean. I started when I was only 2 years old and I supposed it was for us when we were tired or sleepy, I remember sleeping in that crib.

A: So, did you used to take the school bus?

B: Yeah, Uh . . . actually First, my parents would take me to school and then, in high school, I started to commute to school on my own. I would take a bus.

A: The school bus.

B: Yeah, Well, in my country there wasn’t such a thing as a school bus, I just took a regular bus. 

As you can see, in this conversation we used the expressions well, actually and no, wait

At first I said “I was 4 years old in the photo”, but then I remembered I was actually 3 when that photo was taken so I said No, wait and then the corrected the information No, wait. I was 3.

When I was asked if I remembered much about kindergarten, I said Not really but then I said “Well, I remember my first day of class…” Well indicates there’s a correction.

Then I said there was a tiny bed in my classroom, but it wasn’t really a bed but a crib, so I corrected the information using Well. Well, it wasn’t a bed, it was more a little crib.

*A crib is a bed for a baby or young child, with bars on the side to stop the baby from falling out.

After that Chris asked me if I used to take the school bus, I said Yeah, Uh…  actuallyfirst, my parents would take me to school and then, in high school, I started to commute to school on my own.  In this case I’m using actually to correct information.

Chris wanted to confirm if I took the school bus and I first said Yeah but in reality in Perú, where I went to school, we don’t have the iconic the yellow school buses of the United States owned which are owned and operated by a school. What we have is school vans, it’s funny how kids in Lima don’t use buses but vans, and the system is different because these vans offer a private service, they aren’t owned or leased or operated by schools. This is actually an interesting question. Because Chris is from London, he could have assumed that there are school buses everywhere in the world but as far as I am aware, public schools in many developing countries can’t afford to offer that service so they don’t have school buses. That’s why I said, Well, in my country there wasn’t such a thing as a school bus, I just took a regular bus. 

Using “I mean”

You can use I mean to correct yourself when you say the wrong word or name.:

A: I got lost once at a supermarket once.

B: How did your parents find you?

A: Well, the manager, I mean, a cashier told the manager that there was a kid wandering around and he made an announcement through a loudspeaker  

Other examples

  • I love coffee. I mean, dark coffee, never with cream or milk.
  • My friend Ruby is a Spanish teacher, I mean, she teaches English as well.
  • My Jamaican, I mean, he’s half Jamaican, his dad is English and his mom from Jamaica.
  • Now you know 4 different ways to correct your sentences when you make a mistake in a conversation.

Uncategorized

Conversation strategies: “Vague” expressions

Episode 4

You can use “vague” expressions in conversations when you don’t need to give a long list of things because the other person understands what you mean:

  • … and things (like that)
  • … and stuff (like that)
  • … and everything

Examples:

What’s Glastonbury?

 It is a five-day festival of contemporary performing arts that takes place in England. In addition to contemporary music, the festival hosts dance, comedy, theatre, circus, cabaret /kæbəˈreɪ/, and other arts.

Now listen to how I’ll include a vague expression in the last sentence:

In addition to contemporary music, the festival hosts dance, comedy, and things like that.  (everything we understand about other arts, comedy, theater, circus /ˈsɜːrkəs/, etc)

  • What’s the carnival in Rio like?

It has lots of parades, people dancing samba and stuff (like that).  (= everything we understand about a carnival, dancing, playing music, drinking, etc)

  • What can I get in the Mexican market?

You can get all kinds of tacos, quesadillas, burritos…

You can get all kinds of tacos, and things like that.

We can say and things like that, and stuff (like that) when we want to avoid listing a lot of things because we think that the listener has an idea of what we are talking about. We can also use

“and everything”.

  • What do people do for Halloween?

People wear costumes /ˈkɑːstuːm/ and make-up, some people visit haunted attractions, tell scary stories and watch horror films.

People dress up in costumes and everything, some people visit haunted attractions and things like that.

“Vague” responses to answer questions.

You can use a vague response if you are not sure about your answer to a question:

  • I don’t know
  • I’m not sure.  
  • Maybe.   
  • It depends.

Examples:

A:  Are you going to the festival this weekend?

B:  I don’t know. It depends.

A: Are you joining us for dinner?

B: It depends. If I’m done working before you leave, I’ll join you.

*Careful here, I’ve listened to many of my students say “it’s depend”.

It’s depend (incorrect)

It dependS (correct) Remember to use the third person singular with the subject pronoun “it”, so add ad “s” to the verb “depend”.

A: Are you watching Stranger Things today?

B: I’m not sure, I’m swamped with work.

A: When are you coming back?

B: I’m not sure. I’m thinking about changing my return flight.

A: which ones are better, individual lessons or group lessons?

B: It depends. Individual lessons are more flexible, they give you the change to schedule lessons at different times of the day. On the other hand, group lessons give you the change to interact with other English learners, which is very motivating.

Uncategorized

Conversation strategies: Showing surprise and asking follow-up questions

Episode 3

Use expressions like these to show surprise when talking to people you know well:

  • Oh!  Gosh!
  • Really?  Oh, my gosh!
  • Wow!  You’re kidding!
  • Oh, wow!  Are you serious?
  • No way!  No!

For example:

A: I’m working two jobs this semester.

B: You’re kidding! Two jobs? Wow.

A: I just got married, nobody knows!

B: Really? Are you serious?

A: My sister’s taking her driver license test for the third time.

B: No way!

Now, to keep the conversation going it’s a good idea to ask follow-up questions. We often use follow-up questions to show that we are interested and engaged in the conversation.

To show surprise when talking to people you don’t know well, use Oh! or Really!

A: I’m working two jobs this semester.

 B: You’re kidding! Two jobs? Where are you working?

A: I just got married, nobody knows!

B: Are you serious? When are you telling your parents?

A: My sister’s taking her driver license test for the third time.

B: No way! Hadn’t she been practicing for a while?

So, remember to ask follow-up questions to show that you are a good listener. One tip is to remember the question words what, when, where, why, who..?

Here’s an example of how not to have an English conversation:

A: How was your weekend?

B: Pretty good, yours?

A: It was OK.

Unfortunately, the conversation stops here because there’s no natural way to continue it. Now take a look at these examples.

A: how was your weekend?”

B: Pretty good! I went to the movies.”

A: Really? What did you see?

B: Aladdin, have you seen it yet?

A: No, I’m not into animated films.

B: No way! They’re amazing!

A: “Hey, how was your weekend?”

B: “Pretty good! I went to a soccer match with my brother.”

A: “Really? Who was playing?

B: Colombia vs.Argentina. You know, the Copa America match.

A: I know next to nothing about Copa America. I’m don’t care for soccer.

B: Are you serious?

A: Yeah, I’m just not into it.

Listen to episode 3 here:

Uncategorized

Conversation strategies: Saying more than just “no” and using “really” for emphasis and to soften statements

Episode 2

To say more than just “no”, you can use the following strategies.

Strategy 1: Saying more than just no

When someone asks you a question and you want to give a negative answer, it’s not nice to just say no. saying more than just no is friendly and polite:

  • No, not really.
  • Well, no, actually…
  • Well, no, I mean…

A: Do you enjoy watching sports?  B: Um, no, not really. I mean, I’d rather play sports than watch them.

A: Do you like walking? B: Um, not really. I prefer running.

A: Do you have any hobbies?  B: Well no, I mean, I guess I don’t have time for hobbies.

A: Would you like a dessert? B: No, thanks I’m fine for now. I mean I’m trying to watch my weight.

A: Would you like something to drink? B: No, thanks. Maybe later.

A: Do you enjoy cooking?  B: Um, no, not really. I mean, I cook every day but I’m not really into it.

A: Do you have any hobbies?  B: Well no, I don’t really have much time.

Strategy 2: Using “really” for emphasis and to soften our statements

The second strategy is to use the word “really” for both making your statements stronger and making your statements softer.

You can use really to make statements stronger:

I’d really like to visit Thailand in the near future. (really before a verb). I’ve seen photos of the beaches, islands, Buddhist temples. I’ve heard of the Thai massage, Thailand’s rainforest and of course, it’s cuisine.

Remember the first part of my sentence “I’d really like to…”. We can use “really” to make statements stronger. The pattern is REALLY + VERB

  • I’d really like to go hiking sometime. (really before a verb).
  • My boyfriend really wanted to hike the Rainbow Mountain in Cusco, after the ordeal he realized hiking is not for him.
  • I’d really like to take some time off work. I’m a bit stressed out.
  • I’d really enjoy running a marathon.
  • I’d really like to live in a different country for a few months. I think it would really make me understand other cultures. She’d really hate to be stood up.

You can also use REALLY + ADJECTIVE

  • I’m really good at photography. (really + adjective).
  • I’m really good at computer design. (really + adjective)
  • My best friend is really good at creative writing.
  • My mom is really good at baking.
  • My dad is really good at telling jokes.
  • I’m really fond of cats.
  • My sister’s really fond of dogs. She’s recently adopted a dog called Lily.

*fond of: to like someone very much, especially when you have known them for a long time and almost feel love for them. Example: Over the years we’ve grown very fond of each other.

You can also use really to make negative statements softer:

  • You can use really with adjectives

The pattern is NOT + REALLY + ADJECTIVE

I’m not really interested in photography. (not + really + adjective)

I’m not really interested in politics. (not + really + adjective)

I’m not really good at cooking. (not + really + adjective)

I’m not really good at video games. (not + really + adjective)

  • You can also use really with verbs:

The pattern is DON’T + REALLY + VERB or DOESN’T + REALLY + VERB

I don’t really have much time for hobbies. (really after don’t or / doesn’t)

I don’t really have much time for hobbies. (really after don’t or / doesn’t)

  • Not really can also be a polite way to answer no:

A: Do you work out a lot?  B:  Not really. Actually, I don’t work out at all.

To listen to this episode click here:

Uncategorized

Conversation strategies: How to start a conversation with a stranger

Episode 1

To start a conversation with a stranger you can:

  1. Talk about things you can see or hear, like the weather or the place you are in.
  • It’s cold tonight.
  • It’s pretty foggy
  • What a beautiful day.
  • There are a lot of people out here tonight.
  • Are que pancakes good here?
  • Is the coffee good here?

     2. Ask general questions.

  • Do you come here a lot?
  • Are you a new student here?
  • Is it your first day of class, too?
  • Are you in the line?
  • Are you here for the class/seminar/conference/festival?

      3. Say your name.

  • By the way, I am Ayleen.
  • By the way, my name’s Chris.

If someone asks you these questions, you can use “Actually” to answer.

The adverb “actually” has different uses:

  • To give new information

A: Do you come here a lot?

B: Yeah, I do, actually.

A: Are you a student in this class?

B: Yeah, I am, actually.

(The new information is “I come here a lot.” Or “I am a student”)

  • To give surprising information

Actually, I kind of like cold weather.

(The surprising information is “I like cold weather.” Most people don’t like the cold.)

  • To correct things people say or think

A:  So, you are Colombian, right?

B: Well, actually, I’m from Perú.

(“Colombian” is not correct. “From Perú” is correct.)

Conversations

Chris: It’s cold tonight.

Ayleen: Yeah, it really is.

Chris: There are a lot of people here tonight.

Ayleen: I know, it’s very crowded.

Chris: So, do you come here a lot?

Ayleen: No, not really. This is my first day at this gym.

Chris: By the way, my name’s Chris.

Ayleen: Hi Chris, My name’s Ayleen. It’s nice to meet you.

Chris: Nice to meet you, too.

Chris: So, do you come here often?

Ayleen: Yeah, I do, actually

Chris: So, you are American.

Ayleen: Actually, I am from Perú. So, you’re Jamaican.

Chris: Actually, my family’s background is Jamaican but I was born in England.

Listen to this episode here:

B1, B2, Podcast

Condiments around the world – Condimentos alrededor del mundo

Hi English/Spanish Learners! Ayleen here, your teacher from wespeakidiomas.com

In today’s episode Chris and I talk about condiments around the world. Not only will this episode help you improve your listening skills, but it will also help you learn a few new words since we’ll be using different words to describe condiments and sauces in English and Spanish.

Episode 4: Condiments around the world – Condimentos alrededor del mundo

We discussed different types of sauces:

  • Brown sauce
  • Apple sauce
  • Cranberry sauce
  • Mint sauce
  • Soy sauce
  • Chilli sauce
  • Sweet and sour sauce

In this podcast Chris used different adjectives to describes sauces:

Word in English Definition in English Spanish translation
thick almost solid, and therefore flowing very slowly, or not flowing at all espeso
mild not very strong or hot-tasting suave
smooth a liquid mixture that is smooth has no big pieces in it OPP lumpy sin grumos
spicy food that is spicy has a pleasantly strong taste, and gives you a pleasant burning feeling in your mouth SYN hot picante

 

I used a couple of words that might be new for you:

Word in Spanish Definition in Spanish English translation
empalagoso demasiado dulce (no en un buen sentido) overly sweet
paladar gusto con que se percibe el sabor de los alimentos palate
arándano rojo arbusto de la familia de las ericáceas que mide entre 10 y 40 cm de altura, con hojas alternas, aovadas y aserradas, flores solitarias de color blanco verdoso o rosado y frutos en bayas negruzcas o azuladas cranberry
arándano azul blueberry
icónico representativo de la cultura iconic

These are the condiments in Thailand I mentioned in the podcast.

The one on the left corner is known as chilli flakes. Next to it, you can see the white sugar. At the front, fish sauce and chili and vinegar and chili.

condiments

Oh! and of course, the peanuts!

padthai peanuts

Then I asked Chris a question he didn’t understand:

  • ¿A qué crees que se deba eso? ó ¿cuál crees que sea el motivo por el que…? The translation to English is very simple, Why do you think…?

Now you know different words in English and Spanish to describe your favorite sauce!

By the way, what’s your favorite sauce?

Blog, travel tips

Dining in the dark

I should have written this the day after it happened when the textures and flavors were still imprinted on my mind but it’s never too late to tell you about my best culinary experience in Malaysia.

He didn’t tell me where we were going, every time he looked at his phone for directions to guide the taxi driver, he was careful not to show me the name of the restaurant. It was a surprise!

He was anxious, he thought we weren’t going to make it—we had a reservation for 7 o’clock—we were only 5 minutes late, though. Did I mention he’s British? Time is important to him, five minutes late to a Peruvian is “only five minutes late”, to a Brit it’s “OMG we’re already five minutes late!”

We arrived and I walked in without reading the name of the restaurant. I found out what it was called once we were inside, “Dining in the dark”. The place was dark as advertised, “a romantic dinner with dim lights”, I thought. Little did I know…

We were greeted by our host, who explained to us what the procedures were… procedures?

While most restaurants try to overwhelm you with sensory stimulation, this one does the total opposite, it requires you to temporarily lose your sight to be able to explore your other senses.

When you go to a regular restaurant, you know pretty much what your dish is going to taste like by reading the description on the menu and looking at the photos, which help you avoid foods you don’t like.

For example, I don’t like cauliflower, so I wouldn’t order any dishes that have cauliflower in the photos, it makes sense. Why would I order cauliflower if I know I don’t like it? to see if I still don’t like it? After all, however it is cooked, it will still taste like cauliflower, right?

Well, this was no ordinary restaurant, there was no menu, food descriptions, or photos that could warn me against ordering something with cauliflower.

After a test that involved blindfolding us to try to find three paper clips in a bowl of rice, we were introduced to our “darkness expert” and led to a pitch-black room that made it impossible to make out any shapes with the naked eye. Having your eyes open and not being able to see anything triggers your imagination. You wonder what color the tables are, who is sitting next to you, what the foods look like…

IMG_20191106_212720
Before entering the pitch-black room

Akay, our darkness expert, walked us through the procedures for the night and made sure we felt comfortable and ready to explore our sense of taste. He is a great conversationalist—I bet the job requires waiters to have good people skills to help customers reduce anxiety. He told us how a few people don’t make it to the main course and leave the room because they can’t handle the darkness.

He brought the starters, four different foods with different flavors and textures.

The dishes were four little bowls that fit in a tray like a jigsaw puzzle—to avoid accidents I suppose—so it was easy to grab them and create a tactile memory of where they were placed.

Akay told us to start clockwise and, since we weren’t allowed to know the name of the dishes, we labeled them with numbers. The first starter was kind of bland, it tasted like a pastry with a mystery herb I couldn’t recognize. Starter number two was salad-like, I could have sworn I was eating fish with onions and parsley, maybe tuna? Number three tasted like the Peruvian Jalea, fried seafood. Yes, it was seafood, I could taste the crunch of the fried squid and shrimp.

Next, we were served two soups, a cold one and a hot one. The cold one had the distinctive flavor of beetroot, it tasted like an extract my mom would make me drink as a child. It was OK, I guess, but poor beetroot soup was no match for the delicious, hot soup next to it. I’d never had anything more delicious in my life.

– Asparagus?

– No, it tastes like something else, it’s got to be a vegetable…

–  Mushrooms!

The main course blew up my mind. Mashed potatoes with a meat I couldn’t guess, it wasn’t chicken, it wasn’t pork, it definitely wasn’t turkey—it would have been a bit dry. It wasn’t lamb because there was a side dish with the distinctive flavor of lamb and the meat on top of the mashed potatoes didn’t taste anything like it. “Could it be rabbit?”, I thought to myself. The thought of it scared me a little, I probably have no right to feel sorry for rabbits when I eat other animals, but still…I think of the pet rabbit I had when I was a child, all I picture when I think of a rabbit is cute long-eared Daisy having alfalfa :/

Maybe it was goat, I’d had Curry goat once (a famous Jamaican dish) but it was hard to remember the taste of the meat when it came soaked in an overwhelming curry sauce. Maybe the meat was an animal from Malaysia I’d never heard of? I gave up and ate the meat praying to God, “please don’t be rabbit”.

I was already kind of full but there’s always room for dessert so that was next. The desserts kept me guessing for a while, Akay would laugh at our inaccurate guesses every time we told him we had finally guessed what we were eating.

– Akay, we know what this is! It’s lemon ice cream!

– Haha it does taste like lemon, doesn’t it? Sorry, keep guessing.

It tasted like lemon—or vanilla or something white. It’s funny how even though I couldn’t see anything, I was so sure the ice cream was white. Maybe I was biased by the chocolate mousse next to it. Who eats chocolate mousse with dark-looking ice cream? It had to be white.

We left the dark room with a dozen questions about the foods we’d eaten. Our host led us to another table—this one in a well-lit room—and asked questions about our experience. We said we absolutely loved challenging our taste buds and that we couldn’t wait to see whether we were right about our guesses.

She left us with the menu. I carefully opened it and… What???

The first starter was a Mushroom quiche and the mystery herb turned out to be thyme. The second one was Salmon tartare with cucumber, celery and shallots… Wait, no onions? But I tasted onions! No, Ayleen, you did not.

I turned to the next page to see starter number three. What I thought was crunchy fried seafood was actually broccoli! Deep fried broccoli with cheddar fritter. I couldn’t believe what my eyes were reading.

It was time to see the soups. I was right about the first one, it had beetroot, yay! I finally got one right. However, it was the second soup that made me realize I had unfairly labeled a vegetable as “bland and boring”. Cauliflower cream! What! No, it couldn’t be. “You must have that wrong, I don’t like cauliflower and that soup was mouthwatering. These people are teasing me, they’re lying to me.” —I was in denial.

Or… had I been living a lie all my life and cauliflower was actually delicious? I almost felt ashamed of having advertised my hatred to cauliflower all these years. That soup was one of the tastiest I’d had in my entire life. The main ingredient, “cauliflower.”

The meat that came on top of the mashed potatoes was duck!

Time to reveal the desserts. I got the color of the ice cream right, it was white! But my taste buds failed miserably, it turned out to be Olive oil ice cream! But wait, isn’t olive oil, a kind of “oil” that you use for salad dressings? Isn’t ice cream made with fruits or nuts? Not at this restaurant.

This experience helped me realize how we categorize foods unfairly. If you ate something once and didn’t like it, if your parents made you eat it as a child and you didn’t like it, guess what! There’s a chance you could actually like that food. Having tried it once or twice is not enough to ban it from your diet forever. Maybe they were not good at the restaurants where you had them. Let’s be honest, the fact that you didn’t like it as a child only means you didn’t like the way your parents prepared it for you. I adore my mother but boiling the cauliflower did very little in her attempt to make me like it—sorry mom, no hurt feelings.

The chefs at Dining in the dark tease your senses by cooking foods in an unconventional way. For example, not many people like broccoli, so they fry it to give it a crunchy texture and make you believe you’re eating something else, a few people I know don’t consume olive oil because its flavor is too strong, but they would surely have eaten that ice cream!

Giving in your sense of sight can really make you “see” the world in a different way. If you are visiting Malaysia, I highly recommend you visit this restaurant.

Level: B2

Vocabulary

  • Imprinted on my mind (literary) to become fixed in your mind or memory so that you never forget

imprint something on your mind/memory/brain etc

The sight of Joe’s dead body was imprinted on his mind forever.

  • Overwhelm /ˌəʊvəˈwelm $ ˌoʊvər-/ ●○○ verb [transitive]

1 EMOTION if someone is overwhelmed by an emotion, they feel it so strongly that they cannot think clearly

be overwhelmed by something

Harriet was overwhelmed by a feeling of homesickness.

  • procedure /prəˈsiːdʒə-ər/ noun

[countable, uncountable] the official or accepted way of doing something, especially something that is done often

We have hired an accounting firm to evaluate our audit procedures.

  • ˌpitch-ˈblack adjective completely black or dark

The lights were off and it was pitch-black.

  • jigsaw puzzle /ˈdʒɪɡsɔː $ -sɒː/ ●●○ noun [countable]

a picture cut up into many pieces that you try to fit together

  • boil [intransitive, transitive] to cook something in boiling water

a boiled egg

  • mouth-watering adjective, food that is mouth-watering looks or smells extremely good

a mouth-watering aroma coming from the kitchen