Monday, September 1, 2014

Prague Pho

A "light" lunch in Prague.
One hazard of visiting Prague wasn't obvious to me at first.  I had expected to do lots of walking over rough cobblestones, interact with people using unfamiliar languages, and eat strange and wonderful foods.  What I hadn't anticipated was that every meal would be quite so substantial.  It seemed we couldn't eat any food without encountering the ever-present dumpling.  The only question was whether the particular dish called for bread dumplings or potato dumplings.  We were made to understand there was a system as to which was served...bread with some dishes and the even denser potato dumplings with others.  We never quite grasped the rationale of why each one was supplied with a specific food, but learned to accept whatever was placed in front of us.  

After several days of hearty stews, goulashes, and roasted meats accompanied by the endless supply of dumplings and rich gravies, we were barely able to move.  With all the stick-to-your-ribs type food, it got to the point where I never felt hungry.  Wandering the streets one evening, we debated what to have for our supper that wouldn't add to our increasing gastronomic overload. 

The apartment we rented while in Prague, was in a 12th century monastery located about a block from the Vltava River.  Our apartment was entered through the inner courtyard, 
which once served as the kitchen garden for the nuns.  The green space and roses gave us a little relief from the busy city streets we found throughout the Stare Mesto area.  Built into the outer wall of the convent, facing the street and almost below our room, was a small Vietnamese restaurant we passed each day.  It was entered through an adjoining small market which was run by the same family. 

A nice bowl of pho sounded like maybe just what my overworked belly needed to begin to calm down a bit.  We entered the market and found our way through into the small dining room, and discovered it really was a family run enterprise.  After we seated ourselves, we realized we were the only customers in residence, and had arrived at what was obviously the family meal time.  Grandpa was watching and entertaining the little ones, Mom was busy in the kitchen preparing the family's dinner as well as ours, and the sons shuttled between minding the market and setting the table for their meal.  Between kitchen duties and the need to man the little store next door, the entire family never sat down together.  It was rather more like a much-rehearsed and fast-paced ballet, with one or two persons always in motion.  All was fine until the two small boys(maybe 2 & 3) managed to escape without attracting Grandpa's attention, after which any attempt at order was abandoned.

We sat and watched all this and any tension or stress we were harboring was quickly left behind.  The pho was delicious and just what I needed.  We valiantly struggled to contain our mirth as the youngsters were quickly evicted from their hiding place and returned to Grandpa's custody.  It was easy to see this was nothing unusual for this group.