In the greengrocers this morning Kazim asked me how was my work. I muttered an uncommitted reply.
‘I have the best job’, he said, ‘and one of the oldest. I’m here all all day and I talk to to everybody. There are so many people and they come here and they buy their food. Always there are people and they have to buy food and when you buy food you will have something to say. Mostly it is something simple. Something about the weather or where they have parked the car. And you know that is good. I will say something back and over a few minutes we will talk. And then sometimes there will be someone here who wants to talk. And you know then I will listen.’
‘I stand here behind the till and I am in charge. I have been out in the morning to the market and I buy all this and over the day it has to be sold. But I can sell it.’
‘And you know tomorrow I have to play football. There is a team that plays down by Arrowe Park and I play for them. I go out on a Sunday but I can’t move for a few days after.’
‘You must be too old for that’
‘No I have to do it.’
As he talked I could see a Chinese woman outside. She was pulling the leaves off a green vegetable on one of the trays. Kazim saw her as well and said “Excuse me’ and he went out to talk to her.
He was back a few minutes later with a wooden tray full of the green leaves.
‘I told her you can eat the leaves’ he said, ‘ but she didn’t want them. Look.’ He tore a corner of leaves and put it in mouth.
‘What is it?’ I asked.
‘Koulabrai,’ he said ‘It’s a bit like a salad. You try some.’ He tore off another piece, about an inch square. It tasted fresh and green with a hint of mustard.
‘I cooked some of it last week with a stuffing. It was rice and hard yellow peas partially cooked, mixed with some herbs, parsley and dill, and a spice mix and some tumeric. I rolled them up like this.’ He rolled one of the large leaves around his finger.’ And then I put them in a pan with some water. I boiled the water until they were done. You had to be careful the pan did not boil dry so put some more water in if you need to then leave some in the pan when they are done. They are good.’
‘Here you take some of the leaves and try them at home.’ He took a large hand full of the leaves and put them in bag which he put in my basket. “You have them’ he said.
The Chinese woman was in the shop now. She walked up to us holding what looked like a knobly cucumber. “How much is this?’
Kazim went off to serve her. Once she was done he took me over to the fridge. “You should try these’ he said picking up one of the knobly cucumbers from a tray. ‘They are bitter gourds. I know that you like to experiment with your food. So you should try one of these. they are bitter but not too bad. I have them in a stir fry or I chop up some and put iit in a salad. You should try it.’
So I took one and I’ll try it this evening.