Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The wrong vegetables

The reason I haven't blogged for a while is that conversations like the following are beginning to make me lose my already tenuous grasp on sanity, reality and most of the social graces.

The scene: an anonymous kitchen furnished in Ikea and early discount paper towel rails which is absolutely not anywhere near any office. A professional coffee machine gleams like a french-roasted beacon of hope amidst the UHT milk and mismatched crockery.

An anonymous person, possibly exuding a discreet air of peril, is eating homemade vegetable harira (skip the beef, add marmite to the stock and extra chickpeas) with rosemary flavoured crackers and reading The Singing Neanderthals (the bit about vervet monkey alarm calls).

Enter The Current Rather Podgy Bane Of Her Life in a pumpkin-coloured shirt, Simon-Cowell-high-waisted trousers and foreshortened tie with its tip snugly tucked into a black leatherette belt. The voice is oddly high-pitched and squeezed through the throat, with an extremely peculiar accent that takes an experimental approach to the use of vowels.

"Are you ea(r)ting soup?"

"Yes." Slurp.

"Oh. What kind of soup are you ea(r)ting?"


"Oh. How int-er-e-sting!"

Pause to consider the most logical response. "Thank you".

"By times, do you ea(r)t the(r) potato soup?"

"Sometimes, yes."

"Oh. That is also very int-er-e-sting!"

Slurp. Bemused silence.

"Is there any potato in your soup right now?"

Slurp. "Uh… no."

Pause. Brief moment of hope, rapidly dashed (mashed?).

"So now... now I have some que(r)stion for you."


"In E(r)ngland. The(r) people… are they ea(r)ting the ye(r)llow potatoes or the white potatoes?"

Blank look. Puzzled slurp. "Umm… I guess it depends. I tend to use yellow potatoes in cold food like salads and white ones for things that need to be fluffy, like mash."

"Reeeaally? That is so VERy int-er-e-sting!"

Slurpslurp with quiet desperation.

"Yes. It is VERy int-er-e-sting be(r)cause in the EAST of Poland the people only eat the white potatoes be(r)cause the ye(r)llow potatoes are only for the animal food."*

Slurpslurp with slightly louder desperation in the hope that soup noises will drown out this flood of information.

"But you know, ha-ha, in the WEST of Poland it is comPLETEly the opposite. ComPLETEly. In the WEST of Poland, ha-ha, they eat the ye(r)llow potatoes. I have ABsolutely NO idea(r) what they are doing with the white potatoes." Chuckles.

Careful examination of soup to see if any remaining carrot is of suitable dimension to lodge in a passing windpipe.

"Ye(r)s. Ha-ha. It was VERy funny when I went to the WEST of Poland to the university and I could not find the white potatoes aNYwhere!"

Upon reflection, carrots are too small. Curse my blind adherence to recipe dimensions that call for half-inch cubes.

"It was simply crazy. No white potatoes in ANY shop! Ha-ha." Shakes head ruefully at this clear example of Western Polish willful insanity. "VERy funny."

Pieces of tomato appear too mushy or not hot enough for the desired result.

"And so that… this is why it is so VERy int-er-e-sting to hear that in E(r)ngland you are eating the white potatoes AND the ye(r)llow potatoes."

"Well, we have other kinds of potato too." (Oh gods, stop the madness.)

"Ye(r)s. But it is the white potato and the ye(r)llow potato that are so important in this thing."

"Mm-hmm". (Silence is golden. Like a perfectly-crisped potato.)

"Ha-ha. You British people are so VERy funny. Eating the ye(r)llow and the white potatoes. In Poland we do not ea(r)t the cold potatoes. Ha-ha. Potatoes in the(r) salad. Ha-ha."

Pumpkin appears to be reaching bursting point as a consequence of the unintentional hilarity of the tuber consumption habits of the British nation.

"Yup." Considers the rosemary-cracker-to-watery-eyeball trajectory. It could be done.

"The(r) white potatoes AND the ye(r)llow potatoes. Ha-ha."

"You'll have to tell your wife."

"Oh ye(r)s. I must tell her straightaway. She will find this so VERy int-er-e-sting. And funny too. Ha-ha."

"Always happy to oblige."

"Ha-ha." Leaves in haste to presumably flash mail all of Poland with the wacky gastronomic habits of Perfidious Albion.

Aren't raw potatoes poisonous?

*note, the shades of potato may be the wrong way around. I am no Polish potato authority - traumatic amnesia is nasty stuff.


Bookwormom said...

I'd no idea that the vegetable eating habits of an entire nation could be so fascinating.

Of course, Americans are well known not to have any sensible eating habits whatsoever as evidenced by McDonalds, BK & KFC et al.

Suisan said...

My great-grandmother and grandmother could not cook sweet potatoes without delving into the "Is it a Yam?" conversation.

Apparently orange ones were considered yams and yellow ones were considered sweet potatoes. Period. Even when the darned fool younger generation tried to step in and tell them that yams only grow in Africa, and everything is a sweet potato in America. Nope. They had their fight to fight. Logic would not get in the way.

I loved the increasing desperation with which you wre slurping your soup. Poor dear.

EvilAuntiePeril said...

bookwormom, who knew, indeed? Speaking of healthy eating, did you guys get to see Jamie Oliver's school dinners? I don't think that some school caterers in the UK are particularly bothered by the colour of the potato that goes in their chips. They'd likely go into hysterics at the thought of salad too...

Suisan, believe it or not, you've cleared up one of the eternal mysteries of my life. Mum's got some older American cookbooks that list yams as an ingredient but didn't ever make sense when based on what I call a yam. But now, at last I know.