After my innuendo-laden outburst, I felt that, as Arva suggested, a warm meal might be the best remedy for placating my frazzled nervous system. So we entered the first eatery that we stumbled upon, the stares of approximately two dozen Kalvarijans beaming into our spines. Arva's ancient dress had captivated the entire town, and though all the attention bewitched me, it seemed to elevate the princess several inches off the ground. I was glad to have a momentary respite in a secluded cafe.
Any appetite I had, however, was about to be utterly demolished.
I found a menu and began explaining to Arva, illiterate offspring of the 15th century, what was on offer. She nearly sliced me in half with a vicious look, and grabbed the menu out of my hands. Amazingly, she began reading it.
"But how can you read?" I protested. "The Baltic languages didn't appear in print until--"
"The more I listen to you the more I dread to hear what papal propaganda the modern universities teach," the princess said. "But enough about that - I want to eat!" As I sat with my jaw hanging over my chest, Arva quickly scanned the menu. The further down she went, the deeper her brows furrowed. "These dishes - I don't recognize any of them. They all sound like Teutonic garbage!"
"I wouldn't know," I said, still bristling. "You ripped the menu out of my hands!"
"What this thing - cepeliniai?"
"Ah, the staple of contemporary Lithuanian cuisine. It's minced meat and onions wrapped in a large shell of boiled and raw potatoes, covered with sour cream and bacon." Picturing it on a plate before me brought a large smile to my face. "If I speak further the drool will start flowing out of my mouth."
"And the puke out of mine," the princess said.
"Arva!!" I exclaimed.
"Where's the tripe? The precious offal?"
My saliva instantly turned to bile; I tried not to swallow it.
Arva gestured to the menu, saying, "I want some fresh lamb spleen fried in lard. I want beef brain wrapped in a sow's caul and topped with boysenberry sauce. Or seasoned sweetbreads skewered over a fire and served with a side of swan pateâ€¦ Now that's food fit for royalty. After being dead for 570 years, I deserve no less!"
My tongue went desert-dry. "I think I'll skip lunch today and just have a cup of tea," I said.
"Suit yourself, American crusader, but I'm going to ask for the works: Boiled tongue, trotters stewed in onion-broth, roasted pig intestinesâ€¦"
"Where I come from we call it soul food," I said, trying at least to be communicative.
Arva stared at me as if my head just spun around. "That's revolting, tenured professor. We Balts would never think to eat our souls, let alone each other's. Do all Americans eat their souls?"
I laughed. "No, just the Republicans."
The princess returned to her menu. "I'm so hungry I could eat a cow!"
"Yeah, the whole damn thing," I muttered.
"Honey-roasted tripe, lungs boiled in a peppery-dill spiceâ€¦" she continued in her demented culinary dream-world.
"Sounds like what they serve as McDonald's," I mumbled, my sarcasm floating to the surface again.
"McDonald's?" Arva said, suddenly alarmed. "You mean the Scots are still here? Well, they were always the thriftiest, I suppose," she added, that intense look of contemplation taking over again. It made her resemble a teenage girl. "That, and they had their sumptuous habbis."
"Habbis?" I said.
"Arguably the finest crusader contribution to Baltic culture," explained an animated Arva. "Habbis is a mixture of boiled liver, hearts, lungs, oats and spices stuffed in a sheep's stomach. I guarantee you've never tasted anything so delicious. Who would've thought a tribe of kelt-wearing brigands could have created such a delicacy!"
"That's it! Starting today, Arva, I'm going on a diet."
"But the Poles had one up on the Scots."
"The Poles used to serve a delectable czerina."
"I'm not sure I want to hear this."
"It's soup with prunes and raisins and duck's blood. Oh, Perkunai 's my stomach growls at the thought of it," said Arva. Snickering, she added, "After kidnapping Polish women, our men used to trade them back for hot bowls of czerina."
Finally, the waitress approached. "May I take your order."
"Yes," I said. "One large farm animal and a heavy-duty set of utensils. The princess has been dead for 570 years, and she has come here to chow."
The waitress turned around and walked away.