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Green behind the ears

When we first came to Canada, the South Asian community was much smaller and therefore, the shops serving them were fewer, and farther apart, too.

While it was possible to pick up staples like dals, rice, ata, etc., by driving a fair distance, since one couldn’t travel across town every other day, we drew up long grocery lists and attempted to get all our needs at one shot. However, this meant that if the grocery didn’t have curry leaves or dhania, we had to wait until the next trip.

Thus on a trip to a regular grocery store with a friend, I was thrilled to discover dhania. Lots and lots of it! Absolutely fresh! People today will find it funny to imagine that level of excitement over something as common as dhania, but I assure you, we were a deprived lot back then! Delighted at our find, we each picked up three of four bunches and after completing the rest of our shopping, made our way to the cashier.

“I’m going to make green chutney,” said my friend.

“Do you think it will freeze well?” I asked her, visions of dhania cubes ready to pop into curries and chutneys swirling in my head.
The cashier, a young South Asian boy, overheard our conversation and said, “That’s not cilantro, if that’s what you are mistaking it for.”
Cilantro? What on earth was that?

“We know it’s not cilantro or whatever you called it,” my friend said. “It’s coriander,” she gave the name in English as South Asians know it.

“No it’s not,” the young boy insisted. “It’s parsley. I know because I took some home for my mom the first time I saw it and she said it’s not cilantro at all – they call coriander cilantro here.”
Then he became a little self-conscious as others behind us were also listening in to the discussion.

“But if you want parsley, this is at a good price...” he trailed off.
My friend and I still weren’t sure whether to believe him or not.
What would a young boy know of such things?
What if we surrendered our stash and found out later that it was precious dhania after all?

I surreptitiously pinched a leaf off a bunch I was holding and sniffed at it. It had a sharp, fresh aroma, but it certainly wasn’t dhania. The boy was right!

Sheepishly, we admitted we didn’t want the parsley after all and made our escape.

A few years later, when a new neighbour offered me fresh parsley from her garden, she couldn’t understand why I burst out laughing. – ANJANA BHADURI

Posted: May 2, 2012

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