Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Portrait #65: The spice guy

I fell in love with Nicosia's city centre market. A bus parking area was overtaken every Wednesday by several dozen fruits and vegetable stalls, as well as a few stands of people selling bread, olives, sausages, spices, nuts, and the like. Their produce was fresh and delicious and their prices reasonable - by Cyprus standards, that is. I loved going and wandering through the eye-feast of colourful produce, and purchasing wholesome healthy fruits and veggies. My favourite produce this January was the pears. I bought kilos and kilos of pears. Oh, and the avocados! They were generally not-yet ripe when I bought them, but I'd buy a bunch and take them home to ripe over the next several days. Yummy. You may not agree with me, but I personally think avocados and pears make a great combination in salads. Oh, delish!

Anyway, on one trip to the market, I went with a shopping list of foods we needed to make tapas that week. We were in charge of appetisers for a progressive dinner for 25 people and, being the types who don't really know how to turn down a challenge, my friend and I got into our minds that the appetisers should be a selection of Spanish tapas. If you weren't already aware of this, let me make clear now: Tapas are labour-intensive. Very much so. Yet great fun and, again, delish!

Back to the Wednesday market, where I was purchasing all the fresh produce needs for our tapas extravaganza. I found all the veggies without too much trouble: tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, garlic, and more. The last two things on my list, however, were herbs: basil and rosemary. I didn't find any of those goods at the vegetable or fruit stalls, so was about to give up and opt for procuring them at the big supermarket the next day when I chanced across a spice and herbs guy. He was eating his lunch, but he had two dozen buckets of different spices and dried herbs out on display.

Now, I only know one word in Greek, and that word is not the word for "basil" nor is it the word of "rosemary." And the shopkeepers at the market didn't generally speak English. I tried English with the herbs&spices guy, but it did no good. So I, smiling and acting as friendly as possible, started sniffing through his spices. How else do you identify spices? The only thing I know to do is sniff away. So I picked up the bags of dried herbs and took a wiff. I took the lids off the buckets and stuck my head in to smell. I know, a bit intrepid, but how else was I to communicate that I was after basil and rosemary? I tried to smile at him in between each inhale, to make my intentions clear.

Well, he was not happy. I'm not sure if I was turning away other customers by exploring his wares with such impunity, or if he just didn't want to feel pulled away from his lunch. Regardless, he stared at me with disgust for a while, then finally left his food to follow me. He started shouting in Greek. I responded by smiling more, shrugging and repeating in English, "Basil?", "Rosemary?" Then I kept exploring. So he ratched the shouting up a notch. I was beginning to despair from my quest, when he finally apparently remembered a phrase in English: "Don't touch!" Now it was clear what he wanted. He uttered those words, then emitted a loud grunt and a sigh, waved his right hand broadly in the air, and marched back to his stool and his lunch.

So we didn't get our herbs at the market after all. We went to the big Western-style supermarket the next day. I guess the trend toward uniform westernisation scored another point after all.

2 comments:

Puss in da boots said...

Dear Kathy,
your description is pretty real, sounds amazing what your ahve been going through, though am sad it mostly is negative and you have not enjoyed the natural sounds, attitudes of this nation... come again! :)
thank you for the thank you card!

Cyprus Taxi Transfers said...

nice post , very thoughtful and encouraging, keep it up

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