A man’s voice interrupts my reverie with the inquiry, as I stand surveying the salad on offer at the local West Side Market. Proof that I’m back in the city from vacation, back to grocery shopping. I can’t bring myself to sign on to Fresh Direct, and besides, I like to pick my own produce.
What am I looking for? I refrain from my knee-jerk reaction―“I’m not your Mama,” or anyone else’s for that matter―instead, I answer the employee in the vegetable aisle, who is only trying to be helpful, as if I were a normal person, and not an Upper West Side crazy lady (though I believe I’m in the zone). I skip the rant and answer the question. The frisee I’m looking for is not on the counter because it’s not in the store. It hasn’t sold well. I shake my head in disbelief. The man shrugs. What can you do, he seems to be suggesting. People don’t know what’s good. “Come back, Tuesday,” he says. I will, I say, since frisee is my favorite kind of greens.
When I was newly married (the first time), and shopping in France, I always hoped the vegetable seller would notice my ring and call me Madame and not Mademoiselle. Sometimes he did. Would Madame like a little parsley to go with the lettuce, she would. Does Madame know how to make a vinaigrette? She does, but do tell her again, if that means she’s really Madame.
Now, all these years later, I’d give a lot to hear Mademoiselle again, but alas, Mama, c’est moi.