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[Today a Month Ago] Cucumber Culture Clash

December 14, 2014

My lessons in getting around on my own continued with “how to get to Cyan’s workplace in Oakland”, in case I ever needed to. I also met some of Cyan’s colleagues, but as with GCD the day before, I was still feeling rather shy and awkward and found talking to them quite difficult.

Cyan’s assistant drove us to Chinatown in Oakland, where we wandered around a bit, had wonton soup for lunch, and I was fascinated by all the vegetables I didn’t know.



Actually, the pictures don’t do a good job of showing all the things I didn’t know. The things on either side of the green onions in the second picture, and several of the root vegetables in the back, and I think many more that aren’t in the pictures (because, as so often, I felt a little awkward about being a photo-taking tourist.) Cyan recognised some of them (although I’ve forgotten their names again by now), and I knew kohlrabi, which she hadn’t known, but neither of us had any idea what this is:


Also, I really like the idea of these diagonal crosswalks, and I would like to have them everywhere, please (since I drive very rarely, I approve of anything that makes cars wait and makes life easier for pedestrians.)


After also walking through a farmers’ market, we took a shuttle to the waterfront and walked around there:





Jack London’s cabin.


Heinold’s First and Last Chance Saloon. I’m too lazy to look for the leaflet I was given, but that’s what Wikipedia is for, right?

At some point while we were walking back to Cyan’s workplace, Cyan turned back to me and asked, “Why are you taking pictures of weeds?”

Because it’s an Oxalis, and I don’t care if it’s a weed, it’s pretty, I like Oxalises, and since I can’t bring it home, I have to take pictures at least.



As far as I can tell from a bit of Googling, this is O. pes-caprae.

This must also have been the day we did some shopping – my journal is still a mess, but this is the only day we would have had time for it.

There was some fabric shopping, during which Cyan told me about all those other awesome stores we could have gone to, which made me rather jealous (not that I ever actually sew anything, but if I ever wanted to follow through with any of the vague ideas I have, it wouldn’t be easy to find fabric for it). But then she also talked about all the fabric stores that closed, so the situation in Baychester isn’t really that different from here.

There was an attempt at buying a houseplant for Cyan, but oh my god, I’ve never seen such a pathetic selection as at that Home Depot. It wasn’t just that it was small, but the plants were also in terrible condition. Well, maybe not terrible, they were healthy as far as I could see – no bugs, not drowning or too dry (wait, I think some of them were too dry, but that’s easily fixed) – but just not looking good, with lots of torn/bent leaves.

And then to the grocery store, which actually had a better selection of plants, but no price stickers that we could see, and the plants were placed so stupidly that we couldn’t get any of the interesting ones out. (And by interesting I mean plants that Cyan would have a decent chance of keeping alive, not interesting to me. Houseplants don’t seem to differ much between here and America, and it was all stuff that I already have or have had. The interesting stuff for me was growing outside, just along the side of the streets…)

Grocery shopping was a little… exhausting for me. I’m not good at making choices when I’m not familiar with any of the options (and I don’t like going to stores I don’t know even here at home), and when faced with too many things to choose from I just freeze up completely. Seriously, why do you need so many different kinds of milk? Why?

I was telling my best friend about this yesterday when we picked up some groceries on our way back from the Christmas market, and people stared at me as I stood in front of the dairy shelf, gesturing wildly, going, “No, you don’t understand, it was all the way from over there to where we are standing, and it was all milk! So many different kinds of milk!”

And then we had a little culture clash over cucumbers. Because apparently in America, these are “normal” cucumbers:

100_2946 Cucumis sativus

Sorry about the blurry picture – I would take a better one, but here in Austria, I won’t find cucumbers like that until the summer (this one was one of my own balcony-grown ones from a couple of years ago, a Harvest Monday picture that I never actually posted.) What you will find year-round, always shrink-wrapped (and also in my fridge right now) is this:


It wasn’t a very dramatic culture clash, but it was another one of those things that you just don’t expect, another one of those ways of feeling a stranger, when you spend all your life seeing and buying the same kind of cucumber, the same two or three different kinds of milk (I should bring my camera to the grocery store some time) and then you’re told, “That’s not a cucumber.”

But I suppose that’s not a bad thing. This is what travelling is for – if I wanted everything to be the same, I could just stay at home, right?

4 Comments leave one →
  1. December 15, 2014 04:53

    Aren’t the unidentified vegetables in the third photo just okra? I have seen okra that looks like that, although it looks a bit different than the common okra I usually see.

    Wonton soup sounds delicious.

    It’s funny. I would have thought that Jack London’s cabin would have been in Alaska. I have Learned Something. Your blog is not only interesting, it’s educational, Ivy!

    I have seen both kinds of cucumbers here. The top one is the kind you get in U.S. grocery stores. The bottom one is one you’d find in a home garden. There is an even smaller one, as well, that I grew when I was a kid.

    • December 15, 2014 21:17

      I don’t think I’ve ever seen okra in person, but I think they’re much smaller than these strange things.

      Apparently the cabin was moved from the Klondike to Alaska.

      The cucumber thing is really funny for me, because here, the short kind is what’s commonly grown in gardens (we sell plants for both kinds, but recommend planting the long kind in greenhouses.)

  2. daphnegould permalink
    December 15, 2014 12:40

    I think your unknown photo is a luffa (maybe an angled luffa). Not that I can grow those as they require a much longer summer than we have here. But I’ve seen them on Harvest Mondays, so I recognize them. I go to our local supermarkets and don’t know some of the items. My closest one is near a public housing project (low income housing) and some of the people there are from the Caribbean. The supermarket stocks things for them. Sometimes I wonder if I should try to figure out what they are and see if I like them.

    • December 15, 2014 21:28

      Yes, luffa seems to fit – thank you, Daphne! I think I actually said to Cyan, “If I put this on my blog, somebody will probably be able to tell me what it is.”

      I tend to always buy and eat things I already know, but after this trip (when I simply had to eat new things), I feel a lot more interested in trying new things. I haven’t done so yet, but I hope I actually will soon.

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