"Veg", closely followed by "veggies", and then by "tasty", is one of my least favourite words, a prejudice fostered by my mother and inherited by at least two of her three children. The two that actually speak, that is. So it is ironic that the purveyor of my daily fresh produce purchases is so-named. In fact until I took this photo I didn't really know what it was called. Odd. In my head I referred to it as Mr Lee's. I just duck in under the awning after exiting Sahadi's next door with my French feta and coffee, or pancetta, stand in front of the fruit and vegetables, and plan dinner. I am the most loyal patron of their bunches of arugula. Perhaps I've cracked through some kind of two-year ceiling, because only in the last few months has the otherwise reticent and aloof Lee started to smile at me and chat a little ("Ah, there you are!" is his longest utterance yet, and gratefully received), and young Jimmie - who mans the opposite till - and I have been on Hello Jimmie, Hello Marie, How are you terms for only a little longer. One of the regular Mexican workers with a serious haircut and beatific smile always greets me shyly, and I him.
The biggest surprise was last night, when I purchased a basketload of things: dill, new red onions with stalks, ripe avocados, green beans, new peas, fennel, scallions, red cabbage, raspberries. "Have a wonderful DINNA!" said the new lady behind the till, and giggled, as though she'd said something risky.
* Oh. And two packs of Marukawa gum. It's freakily delicious. Instant fruit flavour in the mouth, weirdly accurate (my first taste was melon), which fades fast, but is worth it. 99c for an 8-pack. The packaging is very good and they're good presents. Totally artificial in every way. A time will come when we become nostalgic for the wonders of chemical cooking.