What are them ones then?
This is the question that Dom has just asked me in my Sainsbury’s local on a busy Sunday evening. Dom is the young man in charge of this aisle. I have been introduced to Dom by his colleague who explained thus; “I don’t do really do fruit and veg, but Dom does”.
I have asked Dom for an item using the Housewives Plea format which means you just bark the item you want and add a question mark at the end; “bin bags?” “greek yoghurt?” “mascarpone?” all with the same intonation and all with a raise of the eyebrows. No time for pleasantries or complete sentences.
“Parsnips?” I ask
Dom begins a keen hunt on my behalf, but I can’t help but feel suspicious. Rather than focus on one box on the vegetable section, he is looking behind empty vegetable baskets and lifting up satsumas and pineapples to see if the parsnips lurk beneath. He hurriedly flicks through the packets of fresh herbs. So large and exaggerated are his gestures, it is as if he is acting out “Hunting High and Low” in a game of charades.
“Have you sold out?” I ask, now fairly sure that what we are dealing with here is a lack of expertise along with a lack of parsnips.
“What was it you were looking for again?” he asks a little nervously this time.
I give him the tired housewife “huh” and shoulder sag. Parsnips, I say flatly.
There is a now a big pause where I can sense Dom is weighing up which branch to take on this conversation.
Finally he speaks.
“Right. OK. What are them ones, then”? he asks. “They’re like white carrots, yeah?”
I falter. For a second I hold my breath. He has no idea what a bloody parsnip is. Broken Britain right there. I could turn to him and say loudly, “Seriously, a parsnip?! come on, a parsnip! That’s just basic!”
Then I realise how honest he has been. He could have just said they were sold out. He could have made up anything. He could have totally ignored me. He could have told me to take my sorry, saggy middle class arse home and stop prancing about with parsnips on a Sunday evening and stick a bloody ready meal in the oven like the rest of the country. In some ways, it’s quite a creative way of looking at the parsnip. They are a bit like white carrots and I never even noticed.
“Yes” I say, nodding. “Yes, the ones like white carrots”.
“Cheers”, he says “I never knew what them ones were. We don’t sell them, you have to go to the big Sainsbury’s for that. And that will be closed now. Sorry.”
“Thanks,” I say. “It was a long shot, but thanks for looking.” And for the first time Dom smiles at me.
It’s a new beginning for both Dom and me; You learn something new everyday if you pay attention.