All in the Family

Recently, I had a few days off and decided to pay a visit to my uncle and aunt down south and spend some quality time with them. I love them both dearly. They remind me of Archie Bunker and his wife Edith. They used to live down the street from us back in Tehran and I always rode my bike to their home to see and play with my cousins.

After they settled in the US, they regularly drove up to our area to see their kids but they no longer do that. Here is the reason.

My aunt wants my uncle to make a few stops along the way so that they can stretch, buy something from the fruit stands or just go to the restroom. But as far as my uncle is concerned, that is a complete waste of time. And more importantly, all those cars and trucks that he had passed on the highway will get ahead of him and he has to pass them again. That seems very inefficient and redundant to him! After all, they have already been defeated. Why give them a re-match! And flying is completely out of the question. Don’t get me wrong. He is not afraid of flying. It is just that he is not comfortable sitting still in the back of the plane. He wants to be near the pilot and see what he is doing! The same is true when he takes a cab. He sits in the front seat with the driver and tells him where to go, which drives the cabbie crazy!

They are both very health conscience and read up on all the latest medical news and theories. Last time I visited them, my uncle had just discovered that dried chickpeas (Nokhodchi) may lower your cholesterol. So he rushed to the Persian store and bought all the chickpeas that he could find! The poor owner asked him quietly if my uncle had some inside information about an upcoming Nokhodchi shortage! Then there was the time that I told him about the benefits of turmeric. He bought a bunch of empty tiny capsules (I didn’t know that you could actually buy those things) and tried to squeeze a spoon full of turmeric into them. It was like trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube! My aunt was not amused by him wasting her turmeric.

On the second day of my recent visit, my aunt gave us a shopping list of things that she wanted from the Persian store. You see, my aunt is in complete control of the kitchen, the frig and the fruit and vegetables in the yard. She would immediately know if something is missing or somebody has picked a fruit pre-maturely! And there will be trouble! So in the shopping lists that she gives to my uncle, not only she states what to buy and where to buy it from, but also at what price. If you ever wonder who looks at those newspaper coupons that the mailman puts in your mailbox, she is the one.

The list included corns, Afghani melon, Persian cucumbers, nectarines and yellow onions (for cooking), but no purple onions. She has recently developed a dislike for raw purple onions which my uncle adores.  

لیست خرید از عطاری

پیازمتوسط ۶ عدد

شلیل پوندی ۷۹ سنت ۸ عدد سفت نباشه

خربزه افغانی یکدونه خوبش از مکزیکیه بپرس

خيار ِمهمانى يك مقدارى

بلال ۶ تا یک دلار ۱۰ عدد

We got into the store and my uncle pushed the cart towards the melons. They were in a half-full large cardboard box about 4’ high. He looked at the melons with the keen eye of a diamond buyer! He looked them over carefully and started tapping them. I asked him how he knew which ones to pick.

“You tap on them and listen for a hollow sound. Also, look for the yellowish stripes.”

He wasn’t happy with the ones that were within his reach so he went deeper and deeper into the box. I have always wondered why the best melons end up in the bottom of the pile! Or is it just the curious nature of us Iranians that tells us to keep looking for something better. As I was carefully choosing Persian cucumbers per my aunt’s instructions, I noticed that I could no longer see my uncle’s upper body! He had taken a deep dive into the big box of melons. But thank god, his toes were still on the ground. I quickly rushed over and got there just in time to grab his belt from behind as he was falling into the big cardboard box! Can you imagine the headlines in the local newspapers the next day, “Iranian Elderly Man Injured while Picking Afghani Melons!”

He pointed to the prized melon and asked me to grab it for him.

Next came the onions. He picked the 6 medium yellow onions per instruction but was completely focused on the purple ones. He looked sadly at them and said, “See how beautiful they look! And only 89 cents per lb.” I tried to figure out a way to resolve the purple onion issue.

“If we grill the onions in the backyard, I am sure that the smell won’t come inside the house. Also, the grilled onions become sweet and I am sure that she will like them too. Why don’t we buy some and I can hide them in my suitcase in the guest room. Then I’ll grill them and see what she says. You can always blame me, you know.”

My uncle thought long and hard. He looked like a kid who was deciding if he should take a cookie out of the jar without asking for permission!” He finally gave in.

The plan worked but I don’t think that it is a long term solution.

Ever since I have been back from my short visit to my aunt and uncle’s house, I look at fruits and vegetables differently.

و اینهم برنامه آینده ما ها

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