Language Encounter At The Supermarket

One problem I’ve encountered here in Panama has been finding some spices I need for my favorite recipes, specifically cayenne pepper. None of the four supermarkets I’ve been to in the city of David, Panama’s third largest, has had it and when I’ve asked people who work at the markets I’m greeted with a blank stare. They don’t have a clue to what it is.

Today in the spice section at the El Rey supermarket I found three bottles of cayenne. Pricey but essential. I bought two of the bottles and good guy that I am left the third for some other gringo who might be looking for it, too. In the veggie section there were packages of small peppers, red, green and yellow in the same pack. I thought perhaps I’d buy some and try drying them myself. I asked the clerk in the department if they were “picante” and he answered me in English. “No, sweet. You want hot?”

“Si,” I said.

“Over here,” the clerk said.

What he had were habaneros which I didn’t want. In our brief conversation he spoke to me entirely in English and I responded entirely in Spanish without even thinking about it. Oh, well.

1 Comment

Filed under Learning a new language, Retirement Abroad, Uncategorized

One response to “Language Encounter At The Supermarket

  1. Honest to goodness, every time you use the phrase “city of David” I’m back in Sunday School.

    You get the Good Gringo award for the day, leaving that one bottle of hot sauce. Scarcity of resources doesn’t always bring out the worst in people.

    I may have told you – perhaps not. When I sailed from Hawaii to Alaska, it was milk the crew craved. Each person was allotted so much per day – maybe two cups, maybe only one. But at the end of the day, at midnight, any of that day’s allotment was fair game for anyone.

    Everyone observed the rule scrupulously, never taking more than their portion. The funny thing is you’d expect a real scrum at midnight, but the people who showed up wanting more milk always divided what was there. Kind of touching, now that I think of it.

    The official name of the place is San José de David, but I get your drift.

    I guess I’m mellowing in my dotage. There was a time I would have grabbed all three bottles of the cayenne. It wasn’t hot sauce, it was the powdered stuff. They have some pretty good hot sauces here, though. I especially like D’Elidas, a habanero sauce sort of like Melinda’s but with a little more “punch.” I met Melinda in Caye Caulker, Belize. A lady would set up three card tables on her porch and serve lunches. Wonderful lobster tostadas for a buck U.S. Two of those and a frosty bottle of Belikan was a “Happy Meal” that beat the ones you get at McDooDoo’s all hollow.I spent six days anchored at Caulker and had five lunches on that porch.

    If there’s any place that loves hot sauces it’s Louisiana. I’ve never seen a wider selection in the supermarkets anywhere. I feel sorry for people in other parts of the U.S. that only know about Tabasco. Each hot sauce has it’s purpose and that’s why there are several different kinds in my fridge. It’s impossible, though, to make a proper Bloody Mary without Tabasco. Doesn’t work. In my opinion, you need Crystal to get the authentic taste of New Orleans red beans and rice and Crystal is what you need to put on popcorn. Can’t use a habanero sauce for that.

    It’s strange what the body craves when you can’t get it. Though I rarely ate it in the States when I was in France I had an insatiable craving for Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. When one of my brothers wrote and asked what I wanted for Christmas I told him to send me some of that. No need to send the pasta part, just those little chemical-laden cheese packs. He sent me about 20 of them. One of the bar maids at Chez Charlie’s Pub was a New Orleans girl and every now and then I’d leave her a pack or two for a tip in lieu of cash and she LOVED it. Then, when I returned to the States after three years in Europe and another nine months cruising around Central America I had such a Jones for root beer I couldn’t drink enough of the stuff.