Katalyna told Pytor she was hungry and to join her in the dining car. It took him five minutes to decide. Was he crossing a moral boundary lunching with a woman particularly one as outspoken and free as her? He was married for God’s sake, a father. He took a puff on his cigarette. What could be so wrong? It was lunch, a meal. He needed to eat. Ach. He should have brought a sandwich like his wife suggested. He checked his pockets. He had 10 zlotas and $100 marks. It ought to be enough for the trip. He got up and straightened his tie and jacket. He held on to the leather straps that ran the length of the car and made his way.
She sat at a table with another couple. He hesitated, but she waved him over.
“These people invited us to sit with them. I left a place for you,” she said. “This is Herr Farber and Frau Bauer They are travelling to Paris with a stop in Berlin. “
“Please to meet you,” Pytor said. He sat and placed the white linen napkin on his lap.
“Frau Paternoskov, told us you are a professor of music at the University,” Herr Farber said.
“Yes, my specialty is Chopin.”
“No, Herr Professor, only his music cannot be compared to a Beethoven or Mozart.” He spread his hands over the table.
“I don’t understand.”
“Besides how is that a specialty? You either play him or listen to others. Is that not so Frau Bauer,” he laughed.
“You are so witty Martin, oops I mean Herr Farber. His specialty is then a player, like a kartenspieler a card player, yes?” She batted her eyes and brushed her blond curls away from her face.
Herr Farber’s face reddened. He glared at his companion and then his face dissolved into a smile. That is funny. A kartenspieler of Chopin. Oh that is too good. He squeezed her hand.
“I’m sorry, what is the humor?” Pytor asked.
Katalyna rushed in, “he takes music very seriously. Let’s order. The waiter is here.”
“Yes, good idea,” Herr Farber said. He looked at his watch and then the menu. Luncheon, the Bavarian Weisswurst and Pretzel look delicious.” He turned to Frau Bauer. “For you?”
“I’ll have…” She twiddled with a spoon. “…liver dumpling soup and then the pork roast with spätzle.” She licked her lips. “Oh, and a beer.”
“So much food for someone as petite as you. Where do you put it?” Herr Farber asked.”
She blushed. “I use a lot of energy.”
“Sports?” Pytor asked.
“Umm in a fashion. Right Mar…Herr Farber?”
Farber’s gaze went around the table. His hands then went to his shirt collar to fix his already straight tie. “Yes, sports, she’s an international tennis player,” he said.
“Like I’m a kartenspieler,” Pytor said under his breath. Katalyna shot him a look.
Katalyna then announced she would have a schnitzel along with a glass of mosselblumshen. “And you Herr Docktor?” She asked Pytor.
He studied the menu. Almost everything on it had pork. His gaze peeked over the leather bound bill of fare. Everyone seemed to be watching. He wasn’t an observant Jew, but pork was a line he wouldn’t cross. “I’ll have a café and apple strudel.”
“Come, come Herr Professor, at least have some soup,” Herr Farber said.
Pytor held up his hand, “no it is enough. I lost my appetite with all this sitting.”
Herr Farber went on as if he didn’t hear. “Professor, soup shows the German in us. I find it a patriotic duty that the main course be something German.”
The whoosh of a passing train and the click-clack of the wheels drowned out the table’s conversation. “What was that?” Pytor asked.
Farber repeated his remark.
Pytor used his napkin to wipe his mouth. “Herr Farber, I commend you. If our patriotism were limited to food, we would grow fat, happy, and be at peace. I am Polish, but to acknowledge the excellent German cuisine, I ordered the strudel.”
Farber continued the argument. “Der Strudel ist nicht zufriedenstellend. Es ist nur Nachtisch. The strudel is not satisfactory. It is only dessert.” He motioned to the waiter. “A schnitzel for the professor.”
Katalyna must have seen Pytor’s eyes register panic. She took a breath and reached for her wine. “A toast to German food. It’s delicious, hearty, and may it be enjoyed for years to come.” She held her glass out.
Farber hesitated and then shook his head. “Yah, um deutsche Küche. To German food,” and clicked his glass to hers. Pytor and Frau Bauer joined in.
“You know Herr Farber,” Katatlyna continued, “ such food can be appreciated without eating. I am sure the Professor respects the preparation of these tasty dishes.” She then smiled, “You don’t have to be a player of Beethoven to love his music.”
Farber still had his wine glass raised. “Such charm and wit, you are a fortunate man, Professor.”
Pytor, nodded. “She is as delightful as Frau Bauer.”
Farber looked over at his companion. “Yah,” he said, and sipped his wine loudly.