Wednesday, November 07, 2007

I Can't Say No to Old Ladies

I don't know what it is. Old women seem to be able to sucker me into doing or buying almost anything. There was the tea lady in Egypt. Her generosity kept me coming back every single day. And there was this old Mongolian woman that convinced me to buy about fifteen more Communist pins than I needed. I'm sure there were more instances, but my memory isn't serving me well at the moment.

I had a chance to do some serious walking around yesterday. On my way to potentially getting lost, I made a right turn and ended up walking in the direction I wanted to be going in the first place. A few blocks down the street was this sizeable outdoor market selling pretty much everything, from vegetables to unidentified Azerbaijani liquors to watches. The highlight of the venture was watching men chop up animal carcasses with axes. That's right, these men don't use wussy knives. They go all out with axes and full chopping motions.

One type of stall seemed to be everywhere. It was stocked with a variety of pickled vegetables, dried fruit, nuts, green tea, mint, and copious amounts of sumac berries in ever form imaginable (leather, dried, crushed, candied, pickled...). It was the proprietors of these stalls that brought me back to the other countries I have been to. "Please, sir. Come take a look. What would you like?" The difference was that it wasn't done in a sleazy way or in strangely/poorly accented English. It was all in Russian and sounded a lot more authentic.

On my way by one stand, this old woman with a mustache thicker than I could ever hope to grow (ok, a bit of an exaggeration) called out in Russian, "Please, come here. Do you want something?" I'm pretty sure she would've called me "habibi" if she spoke Arabic. How could I say "No" to her?

She showed me her green teas, mint, sumac berries, random black liquids, chocolate spreads, dried flowers, cumin seeds, and even asked me how "turmeric" was pronounced in English. After about five minutes I felt completely and utterly obligated to buy something. So I settled on some green tea, and perhaps more worrisome, I paid the quoted price of two Manats (about $2.30 CDN). As she was scooping the stuff from the big sack into the bag, she said, "The first two scoops cost two manats, the third is a present." That was nice of her.

Turns out this green tea is mixed with black tea normally, but is also used as a rub for kebabs. I tried some last night, although just on its own, and it had a nice flavour. Minty is about the only word I can think of to describe it.


At 12:45 PM, Blogger Blanka said...

I'm so glad you beat me to the mustache joke...God you're mean and obviously jealous (JJ)

At 5:11 AM, Blogger Tom Gara said...

what do they do with all the sumac?


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