Jane perched on the edge of the wire rimmed chair and lifted the only menu she could find. Within a few seconds, the cook tromped out from behind the counter, a disgruntled frown on his stubbled face.
“HDHDHD HD HDHDHDHD HDHDHDHD?”
Jane winced. “HDHDHD, but excuse me?”
The cook sighed and rubbed at a chubby temple. “You…Eat?”
Lacing her smile with an apologetic twist, Jane felt her cheeks turn as red as the sandstone beneath her sneakers. She nodded and her stomach rumbled in agreement.
The universal grumble broke through the cook’s stiff glower and he smiled. He waved a sausage sized finger at the menu.
Jane followed the gesture. Her eyes widened at the jagged lines of characters filling the page. A few coalesced into words she understood. Reaching the bottom of the limited list, she spotted one that felt somewhat safe.
She pointed with a “DHDHDHD?”
The cook waved both hands as if attempting to take flight.
“You…,” he pointed at a near paragraph on the menu. “HDHDHDHDH DHDHHD HD HDHDHHHD HHDHDHDHDH HHDHD HDHHDH HDHHD.” Grinning, he rubbed his ample stomach. “Good.”
Jane kept her smile from wobbling as she repeated “Good.”
Satisfied, the cook swept up the menu and sailed back behind the counter after tossing the flimsy page onto another table. Pots began clashing and fires roared behind the tile and slate barrier between the bare wooden seats and kitchen.
Jane cupped her chin in her hand and stared out of the open sides of the restaurant. Clusters of morning shoppers strewn through the other tents lining the marketplace. Rich fabrics lay stacked in bundles waiting to be cut, while barrels of intoxicating spices began to warm in the morning sun.
A pair of men turned into the small eatery and shouted. “HDHDHDHD HHDHD HDHDH DHDHH DHH DHHDHDH HDHHDHHD.”
“HDDHDHH HDHDHD HHDHHDHDHDH,” the cook responded.
The two men took one of the tables by the side and Jane felt their glances. She smiled over jovially and the pair looked away with embarrassed cringes.
The clink of steel and ceramic preceded the cook’s sweep around his barricade.
Jane stared at his armful of plates, the glass of something purple in one hand and a basket washed in steam balanced on top.
The two other patrons drew in gasps. “HDHDHDH,” one murmured to the other.
The cook set the array down on Jane’s table as if dealing cards. “Good, good,” he kept repeating.
The basket appeared to have some kind of flatbread dotted with black, ant looking seeds. The liquid in the glass barely sloshed as he set the drink down. One in the trio of plates held a cluster of bright, unidentifiable vegetables diced with some kind of brown meat. A second had a creamy white dip spread thin with herbs sprinkled on top while the third had a lump of chestnut brown paste.
The cook proceeded to load up one of the flatbreads with a little bit of each, humming and mumbling as he went. Once the bounty had been collected, he offered the concoction with both hands.
“HDHDHDHDH HDHD HHDHDHDH HD. Good.” He motioned his own fat mouth toward the end of the bent bread.
Jane accepted the loaded bundled with care, avoiding spilling or dropping the whole concoction. Swallowing, she smiled and held the layers of steaming ingredients before her. The cook rubbed his hands together as he watched.
Jane licked her lips, closed her eyes and bit into the nearest corner.
Spice and salt, sweet and creamy, smooth and crunchy exploded onto her tongue. She opened her eyes as she chewed and stared up at the cook. The man smiled broadly.
“Good,” Jane murmured through her mouthful before diving in for more.