There is a short story by Isaac Asimov called “The fun they had” about future school children learning from machine tutors and fantasizing about the joy of the yesteryear children who actually got to go to school and learn from real teachers. Things have not come to such a pass – yet – in the real world but it is a fact that buying vegetables has turned dramatically different from what is used to be for the previous generation.
My mother had a great deal of tales about her mother, who was very particular about vegetables. According to her, she had to go out first to survey the market and come back to report on which vegetables were fresh on the day. She used to get sent out a second time to buy the selected vegetables. Once she got home with the purchase, nine times out of ten her mom would yell, “So, you paid good money for the pleasure of scrounging around in the garbage for the vegetables that the vendor had thrown away?” (It comes out better in Tamil – “Vendamnu kuppailai thookki potta kaikariyai kasu kudutthu porukkindu vandiyakkum”). She, then, had to go again to return the purchases and get vegetables that would meet her mother’s approval.
A kinder time when vendors not only allowed you to test the vegetables before buying them but also took them back! Of course, one can imagine all the free vendors making a bee-line for the local tea-shop when they spotted my mother turning the corner into their lane. The ones stuck with customers probably cursed their luck fluently. The only happy person in this whole ensemble had to be the tea-shop owner!
Apparently my mom’s aunt was the next stage of quality control. Once the vegetables had passed muster with my grandmother, my grandaunt took over apparently to see if the quantity was right. She was losing her sight and, thus, she used to go by the count of vegetables to assess how well the purchase had been made. My mom, apparently, passed muster with her regularly whereas my uncle was always considered a bad performer. Irked by repeated complaints, he once bought the smallest ladies-fingers that he could pick so that he shot way above any of her expectations of quantity.
In my earlier days I have myself been on these major shopping expeditions along with my cousin. I was the visitor to
and, thus, I merely accompanied him on these three trips per day for one
complete purchase of vegetables. Needless to say, this was another of my
inabilities as my mother found out when she tried to get me to buy vegetables.
After three days of worm-laden brinjal, hard-as-wood chow-chow and delicate
green potatoes she gave up on me.
The fun they had they can keep! I order my vegetables online now – so I cannot even feel guilty for not being able to pick vegetables properly! Thank God for the Internet!