Friday, October 30, 2009
20 October: A Green Apple
As I entered the local produce market in Cortona this morning, the shop keeper, a tall stately man with graying brown hair was waiting on a portly, well-dressed Italian woman with deep creases in her face and a stiff waddle in her step. The woman followed the shop keeper around the tiny shop to inspect his selection of her fruit and vegetable order, as there is no “self service” in this shop.
I stood as out of the way as I could and watched the transaction. The woman seemed impatient with my presence. As if she were thinking, “I'll take all of the time I want and YOU will just wait!” And she could have. I had plenty of time before I had to catch my train to Florence.
The shop keeper handed the woman her bag and change and, at the same time addressed me in Italian. Unsure of what he just said, I responded, “buongiorno.” Yes... not the most appropriate response, as I’m sure he was asking what I would like. I waited a second or two longer before speaking. I was not quite sure the old Italian woman was officially done, even though she was counting her change.
“Posso avere una banana e una mela? Per favore." (may I please have a banana and an apple)?" I asked,
The shop keeper looked surprised that I addressed him in Italian. He darted over to the barrel of bananas, selected one, and showed it to me for inspection.
“Si” I responded in approval. He then moved to the barrels of red apples. “Gala?” he asked. “Ah, no,” I responded and pointed to the bushel of granny smith apples.
“Ah, si, mela verdi (green apple),” he responded.
“Ah, mela verdi,” I repeated with a pretty good Italian accent.
“Mela verdi!” the old woman still standing by the cash register repeated with bravado in her tone.
I looked toward her, surprised she was paying attention. “Mela verdi” I repeated in a tone equally as bold.
“Mela Verdi” she said again, this time introspectively and with a seemingly proud smile; proud, perhaps, of her heritage and of me for respecting it.