Friday, July 19, 2013

Of Spice and Spirit : The Anecdote .

The supermarket, one day before the holy month.
That is the place where you would like to be. Unless you are claustrophobic and hate the crowd. The moment I stepped into the place , I was instantly attracted by the colorful spices which occupied a significant spot in the market. I headed towards it and of course dragged my parents and my brother with me. We were in short of some essential spices, that is why they did not object and followed me.
Worldwide spices.
This is truly heavenly.
When my father asked the man in charge to scale some spices for us, the man kindly said “ self-service sir.” I rejoiced in the thought of getting a bit of everything; but of course it was absurd. What I did was even more absurd and juvenile. I took out my camera and snapped some shots of the vivid spices. A most cherished moment needs to be captured for sure.
I soon jumped on the red powders : both chili and paprika were needed at home. I asked father about whether or not we can get some curry . He refused first thinking I did not know how to use it ; but when I confirmed that I watched enough food programs to know the usage of curry, he agreed upon my request and I giggled like a little girl who has just gotten her cotton candy.
On the other side of the spot were different types of beans and lentils, something which cannot escape father’s gaze. He was an admirer of soups and with the holy month’s arrival, he would of course welcome all we can offer him. The lentil soup will be a dish he will brag about later on, as he cooks it by himself. He considered one type of lentils ; but was not quite sure about the way to cook it. His nature compels him to question one of the chefs behind the counter selling ready meals. The chef was Egyptian and knew perfectly how to handle such dishes. Devotedly , he instructs father who was by the end satisfied for the load of valuable information he received. He ran to my mother repeating what the chef told him and warning her about not adding salt at first. An advice coming directly from a chef.
 As we proceeded to the vegetable and fruits area, we remarked the existence of tomatoes and peach coming directly from our home country. The prices were at least four times doubled because these are now imported products; Nevertheless we were caught in a nostalgic moment and finally decided to move along to other sections.
I was undergoing a mental tumult trying to remember what I had forgotten exactly.
Two insanely frustrating feelings which I completely abhor are: not finding a particular object and fighting to remember something that fled my memory.
Aha ! The bright color of Tunisian tomatoes brought me back the image of pizza and I almost shouted “pizza herbs” . I asked permission from my parents to go back to the spices section and insisted that they do not leave the spot for the market was so spacious I feared we would waste time looking for each other.
I hurried back to the my destination and selected some fresh basil and pizza oregano. I was also attracted by the exquisitely definable smell of  “Za'atar” . There were two kinds. One from Lebanon and the other from Jordan. I could not honestly tell the difference and I selected the brighter color--that from Jordan. I have already drawn a plan for the Za'atar. A plan whose source of inspiration is rooted 8 years back in my past.
I was here, nearly by the same time of the year only Ramadhan came later on. My father managed to enroll me and my brothers in a summer school-- an experience the taste of which I never knew before that summer. I had left my friends in my country and was still newly exposed to the new cultures around me. I did not even master the language and could only manage my way out with what I captured from Egyptian and Syrian tv shows and programs. During breaks, the headmistress would call everybody to line up and ge
t their share of juice and newly-baked pastry. The smell of croissant with Za'ater would hit my nostrils and tickle my brain even before entering the school’s cafeteria. It was not everybody’s favorite. The other girls favored fancier toppings and fillings. I have to admit it was in my favor as they never ran out of my choice and I don’t have to be in the first lines to get what I desired.
A most affordable luxury.That was the only place where I had that kind of pastry.
Emerging from the memory which the herb woke in me, I realized I had to await my turn to hand the portions to the man in charge for the spices. He would put the price on them and I would ran back to my parents .
He was unmistakably Asian, perhaps from the Philippines; but I can never be sure. I am not Father. Father has spent over twenty years in this country and he would identify most of the nationalities here.
The man is of medium-height , all covered in white cloth. Hands gloved and hair carefully combed back. His speed was remarkable. He must have been here for a long period of time and had a lot of practice. He could name all the different spices and he definitely did not need a tag on them to recognize them.
 My stream of thoughts were broken when a woman on my right side , outrageous, was sighing repeatedly , trying to expose her impatience to the world. She then screamed “YALLA YALLA” and kept muttering words of complaint .  It was obvious she could barely speak proper English in the way she formed her next sentence “ MAKE IT QUICK” . Did I say ‘proper English’ ? I meant proper manners.
I was utterly disgusted by her tone . Not only she completely turned a blind eye on me by not recognizing that I was in the line before her ; but she also imposed her attitude and confirmed her disrespect by shoving the plastic bags in her hand onto a huge bag of beans separating her from the man in charge.
I felt I was standing under a rainy sky and that I was sinking in shame. The scene made me feel so uncomfortable and I imagined a whole scenario between the woman and I where I am mostly holding up to a mild face being all sarcastic about the necessity of clinging to fairness and justice while dealing with others--especially that we are at the threshold of a holy month. We need to compensate for our wrong doings and think about efficient ways of bettering ourselves.
However once the woman got her bags with prices tagged on them, she flew away like a furious dragon breathing out fire. I thought perhaps it was better that I did not talk to her. I knew girls like her. They fancy making scenes. They are impatient and claim not having much time ; but they surely have time for fights and screams. Another thought then hit me. Perhaps that is not her true nature. Perhaps she is just having a bad day and the poor man was just in the way. She jammed her anger against him. Anyone could have been the victim. But again, that is still an inappropriate conduct.
“Miss, miss” I lifted my head to see a hand stretched before me. My turn. I was still befuddled by what has just happened but I put on a large smile , a sympathetic one. I believe it delivered the message for me. “ Don’t let such people ruin your day. You have now a customer who is smiling to you.” The man smiled back and soon gave me back my herbs. I made sure I said “ thank you sir” before I took off hurriedly thinking I was late for my parents. I found them right where I left them. They were discussing the price of imported tomatoes we saw earlier. My dad stubbornly persisted they must be organic tomatoes. For him , that would be the only justification behind the high price.