The fruit shop where I go to in Positano, is little more than a hole in the wall where the poor lady stands weighing vegetables and cashing in. A great deal of dexterity is needed, to cross over bulging bags of fruit to customers without knocking over displays of oil, mozzarella and canned dog food. Even more is required to actually step out of the shop with these bags, as there is always a line of customers with their own bulging plastic in hand, filling the doorway and spilling out onto the street. Any domestic argument between the lady and her husband becomes forcibly public.
Most of the vegetables line the road in cases, picking up car fumes from the busiest street corner of Positano. I try to go on days when I know that the vegetables have arrived fresh from the market and am a very hands on person in choosing the best.
The prices of vegetables at the store, are exactly half of what I pay in Luxembourg. No prices are displayed on the perishable vegetables, as the supply changes each day. The fruit has little more than a corner of torn cardboard thrown into it's box, with a hand-written number in pencil. I need to ask the owner for the price of vegetables as even the boys helping out don't have an inkling of what he charges. He rattles off the price at seemingly the top of his head.
If you like it, you buy it.
When I was in Positano for Easter, I went overboard on the seasonal vegetable front. I'd buy bags of Broccoli Rape to have with the local sausages, lots of fennel and artichokes too. Even the red capiscum were much less expensive than in our Luxembourg summer prices.
Sometimes, there is a pensioner who likes to help out at the shop, rather than sit on the wailing wall at the entrance to the town with the other pensioners and unemployed. He's been nicknamed the Americano probably due to the stint he did in the States.
As soon as I approach, he comes forth, plastic bag in hand, ready to serve me.
Naturally I tell him that I want to have a look first and then start helping myself.
That day I had 'stuffed artichokes' in mind for lunch. Finding out that the price was obviously lacking in zeros, and was still in cents (!), I picked up a bag and chose the firm round ones having being assured, by my other half, that they were tenderer.
L'Americano wanted to strip their foilage and clean them there and then, but I have a composter at home so I said to leave it. Seeing that the bag was full, he then asked how many I'd picked.
I answered six.
'Ma che brutto numero!!! (What an awful number!!), he screeched.
' I carciofi si comprono sempre in numeri dispari ! ( Artichokes are always bought in odd numbers!).
I replied that 'We are six in the family so what could I do about it!'
I wasn't prepared to cook one for the dog. Nor was I going to create a bridal bouquet out of them. So six was fine.
He trotted away disgusted. I can just see the thought bubble. 'These stranieri non capiscono niente! - foreigners are clueless people! '
L'Americano should know...