Six large mangoes were stripped from our tree overnight!! And I have a prime suspect, too... but I only used that post-title because it sounded so good: what I really want to talk about is saffron.
When I became a poor imitation of a Gujarati housewife, one of my first tasks was to phone in the monthly provisions order, something which my mother-in-law had been doing before my arrival. The provision store owners were also Gujaratis, so they had all the special things we need, like kokum, methi kuria and so on. Once a month their van would pull up, and the kitchen floor would be heaped with bags of rice, dals, oil, sugar, spices and so on. It was a big event. Now we have stores which somewhat resemble American supermarkets, and I prefer to go and buy the stuff myself; but they did not exist at that time.
So I carefully made a list and phoned the store. They always recognised my voice, and put me on to the best English speaker among them. I began working my way down the list. We ordered most spices in 100 gm. packets – cumin, anise and black mustard seeds, turmeric powder, asafoetida, etc. On that particular day, I also had saffron on my list. We didn’t use it very often, but it had run out. So, along with everything else I said, “Saffron, 100 gm.” There was a silence on the other end of the line, and the man who was taking my order said, “Sister, do you know what 100 gm. of saffron costs?” I didn’t, and he named an astronomical sum. It was my turn to be silent, then I said very meekly, “So, how much do you think I should order?” He said, “One gram should be fine,” and I quickly agreed.
I remembered this in the grocery store yesterday, because another foreigner was similarly taken by surprise – she was confronted with 4 or 5 grams for Rs. 315 (about US$7). I’ve been grinning ever since.
(update: I've gotten some good comments on this post:
Ravi said, "I encountered a similar case in a grocery store in Chennai many years back; but the ingredient then was cardamom. I think the customer lady ordered for about 100 gms and the guy in the grocery store immediately quipped 'Are you having a wedding at home?'"
Kumar said, "... I was sent by mother to get 1Kg milagai (red chillies) for avakai from our mango trees. I shortened it to "milagu" (pepper), ... I was laughed off and asked to check with my mother again."
Subramanian said, "Immediately on introduction of metric sytems ... I had been to a nearby grocery and I ordered 5 grams of Butter without any idea how much it would be. Then the grocery man ... said he is not even having such an accurate balance to weigh 5 grams ..."
It seems that looking silly at the grocery store is a common experience.)