August 2, 2005

The Many Faces of Vegetables

I stopped by the grocery store on my way home the other day. The parking lot had been freshly paved. There's nothing quite like the smell of new asphalt on a hot summer evening. It smelled as if my shoes should stick when I stepped on it.

I had a retarded cart. About every five steps one of the front wheels would stick hard, the cart stopping abruptly, the handle jamming my mid-section. I kept trying to anticipate the rhythm but never did get it right.

My cart lightly loaded, I pulled into the express checkout lane. The cashier was a young Jamaican woman. Her hair was braided and big, resembling a calm Medusa. She set the first bag of veggies onto the scale, then looked up at me and asked "What are these?" in her delightful lilting accent.

"Thai eggplant," I replied. "T-h-a-i. Eggplant with an E." I smiled. "It's quite tasty. You should try it."

She looked up the code on her flip chart and punched it into the register. Then she picked up the next item and looked at me questioningly.

"Zucchini," I supplied. "Starts with a Z." She again consulted her chart.

The man in line behind me said, unsolicited, "I like to chop up zucchini and put it in spaghetti sauce."

The cashier and I looked at him, nodding and smiling, both wondering why he thought we'd care. She bagged the zucchini and put the next item on the scale, glancing at me expectantly.

"Asparagus," I compliantly spoke. "With an A."



Jennifer said...

That she didn't know Thai eggplant is one thing. That she couldn't identify asparagus says an awful lot about something. I'm not sure what, but *something*.

Shirley said...

That happens to me a lot at grocery stores. I fail to understand why they're not trained when they're hired, nevermind that they don't know what vegetables look like.

What's worse is my vegetarian daughter, who doesn't like vegetables very much. SCREAM!

Eyes for Lies said...

When I go to my rural grocery store, I am always amazed that the women don't know the fresh veggies! American women with children don't know what artichokes are, they don't know the lettuce types, or the difference between the herbs. And yes, the don't know asparagus.

Do these women eat frozen dinners? Those poor kids!!

Gina said...

I was laughing at the guy who injected his little story about the spaghetti sauce.

I don't know why I was laughing, sometimes I do the same thing!

Often it starts a nice conversation. Other times it ends up the same as for him. I just never know and that's part of the fun.

Karmen said...

Perhaps Jamaicans don't eat Zucchini or Asparagus. My dad grew up in Alabama and didn't see a Zucchini until he was a grown man.

I think it was just a cultural thing.

BTW, I always get stuck with the retarded cart...ALWAYS!

Bent Fabric said...


Lady K is right, most Jamaicans - at least the ones born and raised there - have never heard of many of the vegetables Americans enjoy. I'm Jamaican and was nonplussed by the array of unfamiliar veggies.

Melodee said...

Great post. What do you do with a Thai eggplant?

LutheranChik said...

LOL! I can relate. In the fall, when I'm into "soup" mode and am stocking up on items like rutabagas, turnips, parsnips and leeks, the poor little teenaged cashiers at our local supermarket are always flummoxed.

And...I live in a small town, where exotic produce is hard to come by, so whenever I can get to a larger city, I stop in at a Meijer's and load up on specialty veggies and fruits and ethnic foods. My basket always freaks out the cashiers.;-)