Low on exotic spices I head to the small Indian shop down the street. I make my way down the quiet side street, and soon spot the sign. This shop has a small offering of colors, tastes and flavors from the Indian subcontinent. The shop windows are small and from inside them hang colorful garments. Above the entrance doorway hang, what I believe to be, Tibetan prayer flags.
As I enter, from behind the counter, I am greeted by a small and fragile Czech woman. We make eye contact and with mutual smiles say, “dobrý den” (or good day). With little time to spare, I head towards the kitchen supplies. Today I have but a few minutes to quickly grab the spices I need and head back home.
The friendly shop attendant asks if I need any help, I politely decline. As I reach for the first package the woman makes her way towards me. She begins explaining that all the spices are specially imported and that they are all authentic. For every spice pack I pick up she offers an explanation of what the spice is called, the smell, taste, and how to use it.
Though I am pressed for time I am not minding that she has taken it upon herself to offer thorough explanations. Many of the spices or ingredients she is talking about are ones I am familiar with or have already tried, but I let her continue. She is just to adorable to interrupt. As I am standing there listening to her I can’t help but smile. Each explanation is filled with very useful information.
I am taken aback that this older woman is so knowledgeable about such exotic ingredients. Observing her movements, the lines on her face and the hands of a hard working woman, I can tell she is not too young. Guessing to myself I conclude that she must be it in her late 60s to mid 70s. Well past retirement age but still working, and working with such energy and passion. I finally get the courage to interrupt her and say that I have all I need for now. We head back towards the register so she can tally up my total. Thanking her with a smile I make my way to the door. She gives me a warm smile and wishes me a nice day.
Each step I take towards home fills me with enthusiasm and joy, all thanks to the woman I’d just met. That woman is the daughter of two people that saw their country come under Nazi occupation. Perhaps she was a very young child during the second World War. She herself saw the rise and fall of communist control of her country. Most of her life she lived in a country that was closed off to foreigners. Most of her life she only experienced her own Czech culture.
Suddenly it hits me just how special she is. This is a woman whose life was mostly lived in a closed off place, yet she was is knowledgeable about so many exotic products. It is obvious that she is a very open minded person. She could describe tastes and give cooking suggestions for many of the Indian products, which means she is curious and open minded enough to have tried them. I don’t know how she gained all that knowledge but I am thrilled that she choose to share it with me on this day and at this time.
I wish I would have asked her name. But something tells me that I won’t be needing a name to remember her. Days when I encounter ignorant people who just want to spew hatred, I will remember her. I will remember that there is no excuse or place for xenophobia. She welcomed the shop owners, who are people of different skin color, culture, religion and whom eat different foods into her country. She also took the time to share her enthusiasm with yet another foreigner in her land. No, I don’t think I’ll have a hard time remembering her at all.
When I got home I made myself a little snack of beluga lentils. I bought these lentils at the bio/health food shop, so look at your local health food store for them. The following are the ingredients I used.
1 cup of dry black “Beluga” lentils, picked through and rinsed
1/12 cups low sodium, no MSG, vegetable broth
pinch of salt and ground black pepper
2 dried curry leaves
1. Place all ingredients in a pot, bring to a boil. Lower the heat to low and cook for 20-25 minutes, or until lentils are tender. If needed add a little more water or broth and continue cooking until lentils are to desired consistency. Remove curry leaves before serving.
Proof of my clumsiness. On a photography note, even a mess can be made to look pretty:)
Tell me have you ever met a shop attendant who left a very strong impression on you?
Happy Sunday everyone!!
To those of you that voted and helped me choose the top photo, thank you so much. You were a great help and I really appreciate it.