Shopping and a show

When I’m bored, I like to wander around Grand Asia Market in Cary. I’ll always find something to liven up dinner, and the passing show of shoppers comes with it for free.

Chinese New Year is Friday, so the store was decked in so much red – the Chinese lucky color – and gold that it glowed. As I stuffed bags with pea shoots and Shanghai bok choy, I heard snatches of Chinese, African and Spanish in the crowd sorting through produce. Japanese women were two deep around the self-serve seafood area.

I next set out for Vietnamese fish sauce. I know they have it, but I always have trouble finding it. As I squinted at labels, a young Asian woman with a middle-aged Western lady came bustling up. “Fish sauce? Fish sauce?” the young woman said. “I’m looking for it, too,” I answered. They started on one side of the aisle and I took the other. She found it. “This from my country,” she said, pointing at one brand of the dozen or so there. “But why big bottles? Why no small bottles? But this one good.” Then she excitedly grabbed a different one, whose label had a picture of an anchovy. It uses a “special fish,” she said and is better, although she maintained that the first one was good, too. “Well, I’m going with the special one,” I said. She smiled and nodded.

Frozen Chinese buns in an open case caught my attention, and as I looked them over, a Chinese man came up and said, unhesitatingly, that they were good and come from New York, but that the vegetable ones were old. He pointed out where the dough was dry. “Don’t get those,” he said, and pointed at some pork ones. “Those are good.” So, pork buns it was.

As I was paying for my items, the clerk began talking in rapid Chinese with a woman behind me. I glanced at her, and the woman apologized for the Chinese. Not at all, I said. She said in English, “We were just talking about her pants,” pointing at the clerk’s lacy slacks, “And how I can’t wear that, but she’s so thin, she can.” “Me either,” I said, waving off the whole idea, “But your hat is cute.” “If my hair doesn’t look so good, it’s a good thing to wear,” she replied.

We all laughed and I gathered my bags. “Happy New Year!” the young woman called. “Happy New Year to you!” I said.