Just came back from a short shopping trip. I’ve taken to shopping the Chinese way which means going to the market once a day and picking up the supplies that you need immediately. I used to shop the American way and go downtown to the modern (western style) super market and pick up supplies for the whole week. Now I go to a local grocery designed for the locals by the locals.
The shop ladies are always very friendly and welcoming. I ask them things like “Is this spicy?” (“Zhe shi la ma?”) or “what is this called?” (Zhe shi jiao ma?”). A typical day at the vegetable market:
Me: Is this pepper spicy?
First Vegetable Lady: I don’t know. (turns to other vegetable lady) Is this spicy?
Second Vegetable Lady: It isn’t spicy.
First Vegetable Lady to me: It isn’t spicy. (BTW that whole exchange was in Mandarin)
Today the first vegetable lady tried to sell me some strange vegetable that looked like a head of lettuce that had been frankenstiened onto a daikon radish. I kindly said “bu yao.” (I don’t want [that]). Then she tried to sell me something else that looked like leathery spinach. During the vegetable lady’s tour of Chinese vegetables, the other vegetable lady came up to her and said “ta ting bu dong!” (“He doesn’t understand what you’re saying!” but really “leave the poor boy alone you meshugener!”). My vegetable lady swatted at her friend and pushed her away playfully. I get all of my vegetables from these two ladies now. They are just the right amount of crazy and helpful. I ended up buying green chili peppers (the vegetable lady told me that they are good with fresh eggs which I also bought), lotus root, something the lady called “suan” (garlic) but clearly is not, the Chinese version of arugula (kuju-“bitter lettuce”) and Chinese cucumbers which are covered in viscous spikes.
On a sad note, one of the eggs broke on my way home from the grocery store.
I’m currently sitting by the lake enjoying the humidity and eagerly waiting for the promised thunderstorm.