Monday, April 23, 2007

Whitie gone veggie-shopping, April 23rd

We’ve got veggies at home in Norway. All sorts of vegetables! We grow potatoes and carrots when the ground frost melts… and all the other stuff we get shipped in from all corners of the world. So how hard can it be to go shopping for vegetables for your mother in law? I know the English names for most of the stuff I’m sure… even the really exotic stuff that never made it down my gut. I pick up the shopping list and head for our vegetable shop…

As I walk into the shop, I fish out the shopping list from my pocket and get mentally ready to pick as I go and tick off from the list… Then I have a brief look at the list and lose my courage and my quite positive attitude to this task completely! It was gonna be a breeze… so easy and quick… and then I was gonna sneak over to Pick’n’Pay to buy a pie… and be home without anybody knowing about my pie detour. I quickly realise though that this is going be hard! The list was as follows:

Branjal Leave that for last… worst case I’ll use the elimination method…
Butternut Easy one – love that stuff!
Sweet potatoes Walk in the park!
Ginger No affection from me, but I know the stuff…
Dhania Got it, haha! Sounds more like something you smoke though!
Gadhra/speckled beans No clue whatsoever, colour or size… but a bean
Pusnika ??? Start feeling depressed now…
Somph Sounds like my irritated taurean blow in the nose by now…
Gira Ha! I’ve deciphered this one before! Used in Aquavit – our Scandinavian Christmas dop!!
Pudina Why are they giving me such a hard time?

As you can imagine a lot got left for last… I have been fortunate to marry into an Indian South African family… with all that comes along. This morning my mother in law must have had a moment of spiritual connection with some far away relatives back in India… listing all the funny hindi or tamil names to make my life a misery. They are normally anchored in Westbrook close to Tongaat (Little India)… and that’s where they do their shopping for vegetables at the market. Naturally with only Indians around you can make your way with the hindi or tamil names… I am in Joburg though… in a previously advantaged area for whites only… and the shop is anything but Indian. I ask one of the black women who works there for help… but it’s pretty much like asking for cutlery that time (Kitchen English, English…???). She’s got that same stupid look in her face like the cutlery woman… so my expectations plummet! I decide inside myself now that whatever she picks up can not be trusted…

I had an experience like that in Bangkok… 10 years ago now, but still very fresh in memory. There was this place I wanted to find downtown in Bangkok, so I asked for directions… Three times I was sent in totally different directions, and I ended up walking a marathon without ever reaching the desired target. Later on I learnt that instead of losing face to a stranger, they would rather send me in the wrong direction. Of course they had to send me far so that they wouldn’t risk facing me again! “I don’t know” would be a total face off apparently. So I started my walking career right there in Bangkok… keeping it up inside Lonehill Village Estate – and now the vegetable woman in front of me! She is probably Zulu… or Xhosa or Venda or something! Then I realize that she already lost face with that stupid look. She is still not short listed as my shopping assistant… “I don’t know” she says… trustworthy indeed, but not much help for me.

So I find an Indian family inside the shop and beg for assistance! They help me around until my list is completed, and I’m very thankful. Obviously this is very amusing for them… a whitie looking for branjal, pusnika and pudina. Then I wonder if these people could possibly have the same issues with losing or keeping face as the Bangkokkians..? Can I trust what’s in my basket now? They have roots from the same corner of the world. Roots – culture… and saving face? After all it’s a quite young married couple with kids… maybe they’re not familiar with all the Indian terms… and maybe some of their ancestor’s passed on knowledge got mistakenly changed and corrupted through the oral channels. History is full of examples, so this is obviously a gamble no matter what.

There are no other Indians in the shop to check my list… so I surrender, pay and bring the stuff home. I sort of sneak the shopping bag onto the counter… as if it arrived there without my knowledge. My mother in law discovers the bag and starts to pick out the veggies… One thing after the other… and I’m watching very curiously now from the side of my vision. Not one single comment – like it was the most inevitable thing in the world. Mission accomplished! I’m so incredibly chaffed and relieved!!

8 comments:

Nic said...

Hi,

My name is Nic and I run the SA Rocks blog. I was hoping that you might be interested in contributing to the blog.

Please feel free to email me at: editor@sarocks.co.za

Thanks

indren said...

Ha ...Ha

Ur next attempt at writing should be 'The Idiots Guide to Indian Shopping'??

inu

Tiffany said...

My mother liked this post so much she sent ME a link to it... You have an obsessed Aussie on your tail.. beware Jonny..
I'm not sure if she sent you the comment.. so i will just paste it here..

'hi jonny, tiffs mum here, on the goldcoast, queensland australia, enjoying your blog, had a good laugh about your veggie shopping.'

Sleepless in Manhattan said...

Now, that was what I call mean...it sounds exactly like my mother's sense of humour to send you off on your practical exam in Indian veggies....hahhaaaaahhaaaa...

Sleepless in Manhattan said...

Well, well, it seems the veggies sold after all....! Now that you're a world-famous veggie and grain blogger, how about giving us an idea how things are going in potato land right now. My nephew ok?

Jonny said...

Wow, this really rocks people! Appreciate it! Invitation from another blog-sphere thing... and an aussie blog-fundamentalist on my tail... How much better can life be?! I am deeply honoured, and hey, Tiffi's mum... I'll take you veggie shopping any time!!

Indren have obviously gone into an alliance with his mother... so I need somebody on my side out there. Thanx again!!

Jonny said...

Well, I landed in Norway today... so it might be a bit less blogstuff over the next couple of weeks... but I'll be back!

Troy is well Rupi... feeding him boiled, fried and mashed potatoes... with some noisettes for a change!

Sleepless in Manhattan said...

Feed troy the food of vi-kings, and make sure he comes back saying: "akkurat!"
Keep writing from vagn, babe, it will put things in sharper relief. And please give my love to darling Jon and to Sissel and Terje! I hope they're as big fans as me!