Have you ever completely misunderstood the use of a food item from another culture to disastrous results? Have you ever seen anyone else do it?
In my first year of law school, I lived with a Chinese L.L.M. student named Yoyo (really) who had never come to the states before. One day she was hunting through the fridge and held up a jar of Hellman's.
"What do you do with this?" she said.
"Well," I said, "you can put it on sandwiches. Or, uh, on seafood. And it's in a lot of sauces. And oh yeah, sometimes we make pasta salad with it."
"Pasta?" Yoyo said. "Like lasagna?"
"No, like on salad with vegetables."
I was aware that I had done a really bad job of explaining pasta salad, but I decided to leave it there, figuring that it wouldn't come up.
Two days later I came home to a funny smell in the kitchen. I opened the door and there sat Yoyo, chopsticks in hand, poised to dig in to a steaming heap of noodles slathered in an entire jar of mayonnaise. I remember my movement toward her as a slow-motion dive, screaming "NOOOOOooooooo!"
I convinced her not to eat the hot spaghetti pasta. We went out for pizza instead.
Has anything similar happened to you?