The thing is a plant but after that, I cannot guarantee anything that might pass for an attribute. I scroll through the odds things I’ve discovered in my life that are vegetables and this doesn’t get near any of them at all. Asking someone who works here is paramount to begging to be insulted or driven deeper into ignorance, but I already do not know what it is so to be misinformed is only one step to the side not back.
“Excuse me,” I say to a young woman who is trying to avoid eye contact with a customer, “but could you tell me what this might be?”
This is a woman less than half my age who thinks people my age in general, and men my age in particular, are already reeling slowly towards the grave. She looks at the, uh, thing, squints at it as if that might bring clarity, and she looks around for some sort of tag on the bin.
“Jicama” she says if she’s just seen the word for the first time and to her credit she pronounces the J in the word as an H. We’re getting there.
“What is it?” I ask and there her knowledge ends abruptly. Not only does she not know what it is she thinks it looks “nasty”. We Google it on my phone and she doesn’t know what a water chestnut is, as Google makes reference to that. But I have her attention now. She’s at least curious and therefore still alive.
“Have you a knife on you?” I ask and at this she takes a step back and declares, “I know you ain’t gonna put that thang in your mouf and you not know what it is!” She’s just opened up a salvo of vernacular on me and I know at this point she’s actually talking to me as a person and not a customer. She also realizes that I might be bluffing. “You say you’ll eat that thang if I bring you a knife?” and she’s cocks an eyebrow at me.
“Definitely,” I reply and it is, after eye contact and a near dare, most certainly, on.
No matter what culture or age, there’s a look all women have, that they give to men, which means there is a recognition of insanity or a lack of sense, and no matter what woman gives a man this look, all men know it for what it is. But as a man, you have to go forward, just because of that look. You have no choice. She used that look. Now you have to pick that rattlesnake up with your bare hands even though you wouldn’t have if she hadn’t. She goes to get a knife and I stand there with my jicama.
There are things to consider here, really. One, Google doesn’t mention it being fiery hot or something that is a required taste. I’m betting that whatever it is, I can handle the heat of it unless it’s pushing past habaneros and there aren’t too many things out there packing I haven’t heard about yet. Another thing is that deep down inside I’m unable to do something once a woman, any woman, had practically dared me to do it. Think about what’s compelling me at this point; Google says it’s safe and a woman has dared me.
She returned with a knife and even at her tender age she’s spent some time in a kitchen because the Jicama is quickly sliced. She makes a face as I pop a piece in my mouth and start chewing. I cough, gasp, and start making noises like an alien is about to pop out of my chest and her eyes get the size of dinner plates.
“Just kidding,” I tell her. “it’s actually a little on the sweet side, but it tastes somewhat like a water chestnut.”
“Mofo” she replies and she smiles because I caught her flatfooted on that one and she knows it. That’s a look all women have, too. That look where a man has done something that surprises her and no matter how mad she might be, she is secretly pleased he did it.
I ask her where they keep the tahini and her eyes go blank on me. It’s time to renew the search.
Tahini is something that I’ve known about since an old flame and I made our own hummus. But if you are already gracing the edge of discovery and new stuff with the help of a store where discovery isn’t on the minds of the work drones then it is better to split the tasks up among the unsuspecting.
Before we go on here are you okay? Shopping traumatizes me. It jolts me out of my comfort zone like being naked in public affects some people and I never know just how bad these vivid descriptions of consumerism hits those who read them. I will assume you’re still alive and still with me.
Tahiti was one of the few islands in the pacific to be overlooked in World War Two but Hemmingway made it famous by writing about it. This has nothing to do with tahini, mind you, but when a worker drone is asked about tahini the first thing they say, as if there was an email sent out demanding it, they looked up and say, “Tahiti? “And I said, “Texas”
I find a manager who not only knows what tahini is and what its function is but he also knows, generally, where it might, possibly be. But his knowledge isn’t exact. It’s down to one of three aisles, an acre or so, and I realize this is all business between the two of us and the gender thing that existed between the woman and myself with the Jicama doesn’t come into play here. I don’t interact with guys the same way as I do with women and just as this thought occurs to me as we find, I find, tahini.
The woman in the first frame, half my age and providentially outside my hunting limits, were I hunting, still managed to banter with me in a way that men, no men, ever do. With obscure vegetables I manage to converse with strange females in ways that sesame seed butter doesn’t seem to ease the way with strange males. Is this a function of sexuality or culture?
I find myself curiously heterosexual when it comes to food.