Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Portrait #6: Another Iranian Manager

Today was my day to make dinner for the family, so I went by the local HalalCo Middle Eastern food market to get some groceries. Mostly I was picking up some vegetables for stew and salad, so I went first to search out peas (Bamia in Arabic), either fresh or frozen. Having no luck in the frozen food aisle, I went to the fresh veggies, and found myself standing in the middle of the room looking around aimlessly.

A gentleman wearing a button-down shirt and a cardigan asked me, "Can we help you find anything?"

He wasn't in uniform, nor did he have a nametag, but he acted like he belonged, so I in turn asked him, "Do you have any peas?"

He apologised that they didn't have fresh peas and encouraged me to go back to the frozen foods. So I changed my menu and opted for green beans, then headed off to check out.

The checkout line (queue) had half a dozen people on it and who should be directly in front of me but the same man who had spoken to me! As soon as I placed my groceries, including a bag of frozen green beans, on the counter, he turned to me and asked, very graciously, "Is that what you meant? I'm sorry I misunderstood. We have those in the fresh vegetables!"

"No, no," I assured him. "I was asking about peas, but then I changed my mind and got the green beans. I'd wanted to cook the peas into the rice, but that's ok, I'll make something different."

"Oh, we cook green beans with rice!" he exclaimed, and launched into a bit of a monologue about how they cook green beans with rice. I asked him where he was from, and he said Iran, then explained a bit more about how he half-cooks the rice then mixes the beans, meat and tomato stew in with the rice for the second half. "It's like we cook it twice," he said.

I responded, "Yes, that's how we do peas in Syria, but not green beans. Green beans we cook the same but serve on the side. I didn't know I could do that with beans as well - maybe I'll try that!"

Then he asked me if in Syria we rinse our rice, or soak it before cooking?

Then it was his turn to check out and, for some reason, he asked the clerk to charge him an extra fifty cents.

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