There is a story in my family, which may have benefitted from the ornamentation that comes with age. It concerns my brother when he was at primary school. The class he was in was geting ready for a play, possibly something along the lines of 1,001 Arabian Nights.
Not being the actorly type, he found himself standing next to a female student dressed in baggy silk trousers and a veil as one of the Sultan’s harem. He thought it presented the ideal opportunity to try out his charm.
‘And how are you, my pretty little petal from the East?’ he enquired.
She turned to face him, ‘Bugger off,’ she said.
Tonight I found myself in a massive Chinese Supermarket on a mission for my mother suffering similar levels of rebuttal as I tried to navigate the rows and rows of exotic products. She had asked me to pick her up some peppercorns – a kilo bag at an Asian grocer is a fraction of the cost of a tiny sachet bought in a supermarket – and some Chinese rice wine.
I also needed to get some things and regular readers of this blog will not be surprised to learn top of the list was bananas. For those that are new, just don’t ask. If you are curious, search the blog because if you ask me and I have to tell you, we are going to be here all night.
The problem is with this market is that it is a palace of opportunity. I was wandering around, wearing my earphones as I was listening to a podcast. Then my phone pinged as a message came though from a work colleague who is also a chef.
I answered her, but it was not easy, because I was carrying my handbag, had my phone in my pocket, which was attached to my ears via the headphones and was having to extract it while also carrying a shopping basket into which I had already placed two larges hands of bananas and a 1.5 kg jar of pickles that I had chanced upon. The more I answered her, the more she replied, so eventually I thought I had better make my situation clear.
‘I am in a Chinese supermarket,’ I wrote.
‘Why?’ She asked.
‘Looking for Chinese wine,’ I explained. She didn’t need to know about the bananas.
I thought that would satisfy her, but of course I had forgotten she is a chef.
Two pictures arrived, ‘This is what you need,’ she said. At the time, I was standing in an aisle of tall shelves filled with bottles.
‘All I can see is sodding soy sauce,’ I replied. There was a stupifying amount of it.
‘Look for these labels,’ she replied – with more pictures.
‘I am now in vinegars,’ I announced, ‘I had to walk through two aisles full of chilli to get here.’
More pictures, ‘Can you see it yet?’ She asked. But in my confusion, I had gone too far.
‘Oh christ. I am in the noodles,’ I said. There was no way out of the noodles, there were endless rows of shiny yellow and red packets. ‘I am backing out and going back to vinegars.’
And that is where I found the wine; along with pomegranate pulp and rosewater and underneath bottles of cloudy lime juice. There were a number of bottles to choose from, so I just went with one that had a similar label to one of the pictures my friend had sent me.
I hope it is OK. My mother will be using it for cooking, but at $1.95 it seems quite the cheap tipple. Maybe I should think about buying all my wine here.
In the meantime, I have a kilo and a half of pickles to get through and enough bananas to see me through to Sunday.