We were traveling in Europe as a family—Jan, Alicia, Nathan, and I. London, Amsterdam, Paris, Geneva, Frankfurt, and assorted smaller towns in Germany where we rented a small VW Polo so I could enjoy driving on the Autobahn. This was Europe on $25 a day when the dollar was worth more anyway, and beds and breakfasts, hostels, and pensions provided inexpensive overnight accommodations for families.
I was studying the relationship between church and state for two months, so not every stop proved interesting to my minor children, although they seemed to appreciate churches in general, most of which provided stately, beautiful, and immense echo chambers.
One area where I knew we would have to compromise occasionally involved food, considering the fact that my children tended to be picky eaters, one in particular, though she is not so picky anymore in her adulthood, I must hasten to add. England to me meant steak and kidney pie, shepherd’s pie, and stock pots. Only to me. To the rest of the family it meant the accommodation of one stop at McDonald’s.
Amsterdam meant raw ground meat. Only to me and my flirtation with Mad Cow disease. There we began the tour of different national variations of pizza, especially of the Four Season variety, with four different items in the four quarters of the pizza. That worked well in Paris and Geneva, but in Bacharach, Germany, the Four Seasons pizza that included tuna, peas, sardines, and squid did not go over so well with the rest of the family. Fortunately they were placated with Brats mit Brotchen at the next stop.
It was the Geneva visit to Colonel Sanders’ Kentucky Fried Chicken that caused the most intense reaction from the local clientele. We had not observed that the advertising slogan “Finger Lickin’ Good” was noticeably absent in French, German, or any other language. Believing that we knew how to eat fried chicken, since it was after all a conspicuously American restaurant with an all-too-familiar menu, the four of us proceeded to eat the chicken with our fingers. Every one of the other customers began to stare at us , and there were unnervingly many customers. As our nearest neighbor at the next table informed us, “It is extremely impolite and unsanitary to eat with your fingers.” We must have thought that we had entered Geneva out of a time warp from the Fifteenth Century when they were not so fastidious, from their point of view. We rapidly adapted to knife and fork consumption of the rest of our meal.