In a recent burst of culinary enthusiasm, I decided to unleash my inner Latina by whipping up a Mexican fiesta, complete with fresh guacamole, salsa, fish tacos, refried beans and a sweet, slippery flan. (Ancestral Disclaimer: I possess not a drop of Hispanic blood, but I believe there is a sexy Chicana residing deep within my soul. Her name is Velvita Montecombo).
Compiling the selected recipes from Epicurious, I added all the ingredients to my weekly shopping list. There were some exotic components that I’d never heard of before so, while I’m familiar with almost everything in the produce department, I wouldn’t know a tomatillo from a Tommy Mattola. It was clear I’d need some professional help on this expedition. With list in hand, I drove to the supermarket.
While perusing the peppers, I recognized bells, jalapeños, and pepperoncini…but beyond that, I was out of my depth. It was then that I sought out the produce manager.
“Excuse me,” I said, “Can you tell me where the habaneros and tomatillos are?”
He pointed, in a vague way, toward the bulk vegetable section. Now, right off the bat, I could tell we were going to have a rocky relationship. You see, unless I’m asking an Irish Setter where the ducks are, I expect words in response to my queries, not pointing.
“Over there?” I asked, giving him another opportunity to articulate.
He nodded his head in the affirmative, still remaining silent (although he may have grunted – I’m not sure).
Walking to where he gestured, I discovered a small cardboard box filled with a hodgepodge of peppers. There were round red ones, long green ones, short green ones, long red ones, round green ones…you get the picture.
“These?” I called to him. He ignored me, which got me (and Velvita) feeling caliente – and not in a good way. I sashayed up to him (Velvita sashays) and asked, “Can you come over here for a minute, please?”
He looked put out, but followed me nonetheless.
“Are any of these tomatillos?” I asked again.
“The green ones.” It speaks!
There were no fewer than three completely distinctive varieties of green vegetables in there.
“Which green ones?” I pressed. “They’re all different.”
“The green ones,” he repeated.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, our uncooperative produce manager was finding it impossible to utter those three little words: I. Don’t. Know.
Funny thing about the phrase I don’t know…it’s like a multi-purpose magic wand. Not only is it a free pass for getting out of answering questions (lawyers hate it, because where can you go from “I don’t know”?); but it’s also a valuable time-saver for the person on the receiving end (unless you enjoy a spirited wild goose chase now and again).
Rather than tango any further with Mr. Nohelpatall, I turned to my trusty iPhone and searched Google images for “habanero and tomatillo.” Voila! Not only did it immediately solve my problem, it taught me two things: 1) Habaneros are the same things as Scotch bonnets and 2) one day it will be necessary for computers to replace humans. Otherwise, salsa will become extinct.
I showed him my phone and said, “In case you’re interested, these are what they look like!” Velvita can be a little bitchy.
I bagged my peppers, shot him a derisive glare and huffed off. He couldn’t have cared less.
Next stop, the aisle dedicated to garbage bags, plastic wrap, and cleaning supplies. I had recycling bags on my list, but couldn’t find any. Since I’m a glutton for punishment, but also an eternal optimist, I enlisted the help of another store employee.
“Excuse me, do you sell recycling bags? I don’t see them.”
“Yes,” he said. Words! I was hopeful. “They’re over there.” He pointed to an enclosed section at the front of the store. The sign above the door read, “Recycling Center.” It’s where people redeem their bottles and cans. Hmm…
“Are you telling me that’s where you stock recycling bags for purchase?”
A blank stare on his part. A heavy sigh on mine. Here we go again, I thought.
“Um, yeah?” Haltingly answering my question with a question did not come across as certainty.
Even though I knew better, I went to the recycling center. Of course, there is nothing for purchase in the recycling center, ever. Google couldn’t help me out with that one, so it was Amazon Prime to the rescue.
It’s so refreshing to know that I can go to Google, Epicurious or Amazon, with complete confidence. I’ve never searched for a brisket recipe and had Epicurious answer me with one for quiche. If Google doesn’t have what I’ve typed, it will help out by asking, “Do you mean gobbledygook?” And Amazon will help me narrow down my search by suggesting “gobbledygook in All Departments? In Music? In Books? Etc.” And if I ask for something they can’t find, they will tell me in no uncertain terms.
Why don’t (won’t) humans do that?
I don’t know.