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My Trip(e) in France

Have you ever walked away from a restaurant confused and nauseous? I had not until I stopped in a café in a small town on the coast of Normandy. A group of friends and I strolled into the small, blue building facing the ocean wanting to try some of the region’s specialties. We figured that a small, family run place would provide us the experience we wanted. Scrolling through the menu I was disappointed to find only two specialty dishes: one seafood, the other beef. Due to my French vocabulary being limited to “Merci,” I could only garner a few scraps of information on either dish. When the waitress came over, I went out on a limb and ordered the seafood. Unfortunately, she signaled that it was unavailable so I proceeded to order the beef. Having taken 6 years of Spanish, I assumed that my knowledge of romance languages would protect me from any unwanted surprises. This pride went so far as to persuade me to ignore the ominous “are you sure” from the waitress.  The waitress soon came out with our dishes and, expecting a plate of cut beef, I was surprised to be given a bowl of broth with a mysterious meat. The confusion of the situation soon evolved to regret, as I quickly realized that I had a very peculiar cut of beef: Tripe. Cut from the first and second stomach of the cow, the dish requires an acquired taste. After buckling down, I finished the dish and was left with an important lesson. No matter how much you think you know, ask questions. By relying on my assumptions on the similarity of romance languages, I was left looking like a fool.

This lesson holds wait outside of the world of food, too. On this trip specifically, we have been presented information that has challenged my assumptions on seemingly concrete situations. Should Hitler have a space in a museum? How do you represent French Marshals that collaborated with the Nazis? Though these questions may not have clear answers, the act of asking them is integral to the process of creating a responsible national memory. The alternative, as shown through my misadventures in Caen, can often leave an individual, or even a country, looking like a fool.