All I want for dinner is…
Two hours before the start of our Sunday evening dinner party I suddenly decide that I want to make green beans and courgettes fried in garlic as an accompaniment to the lasagne. I run downstairs to the shop at the end of our road, which doesn’t seem to have regular opening hours, and sure enough find it open, and its owner-who I believe is trying to teach me Arabic, one bunch of mint, two oranges, three thousand lire at a time- there to greet me, nodding his head, smiling, saying ‘Ahlein’, welcome. But there are no green beans, and no courgettes. I perform a pantomime of looking under boxes, scratching my head, and searching around the shop in vain for something I can use instead, or at least for something I can buy so that I don’t have to leave empty-handed. All the while, the little man talks to me in Arabic, chuckling to himself. I imagine he is saying
‘What are you looking for? It isn’t here!’
In the end I give up and pick up an onion and a lemon, always useful, even if not tonight.
I hand them to him and he weighs them on his ancient scales, still laughing quietly and playing along with my pretence that they were what I wanted all along. He puts them in a small bag, hands them to me, pauses and then says ‘Un cadeaux!’ A gift!
I practically fly up the 3 flights of stairs home, fuelled by delight and wanting to tell my husband about my first Christmas present of the year. My usual ‘if only’ mantra (if only I had thought about things in advance we could have eaten green beans) disappears, after all if only I had thought about it in advance I would never have been given my serendipitous gift.
In the end I decide to make a side dish from half an aubergine, a tiny courgette I find at the bottom of the fridge, and handfuls of herbs and garlic. It is only just enough for four people but the wrinkly skinned lemon and the fat onion more than make up for it in my heart.