When my friend Nzwakazi gave me Abraham Verghese’s novel ‘ Cutting for Stone’ to read, the back-cover blurb had my mouth watering at the mention of the cross-cultural conflicts of a medical doctor spanning Britain, Ethiopia, India, the Yemen et al. I’ve evidently been reading too much Annie Hawes, because – whilst the cuisines are mentioned – they are not exactly features in the story. There is a lot of interesting information about medicine and – certainly – about the history of female surgery. I soldiered on and finished the book (834 pages, excluding end-pages). Judith may rate it higher, but I found insuffiecient character motivation in the plot; perhaps 3/5, and the fault of a ruthless editor. I finished the book while waiting in the car outside the supermarket whilst Grandy was doing her weekly shop. Several strokes have left her very slow and a yield of 2 tomatoes, a loaf of bread, a roasted chicken and the newspaper can occupy her for upwards of two hours.
Anyhow, I got out of the car to enjoy the sunshine and have a cigarette and was joined by an amiable old chap who was engaged in the similar pursuit; of waiting for his wife to do her shopping. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I knew this man from somewhere and it was only later in the afternoon, when I thought back on it that things clicked into place, thanks to a passage from Verghese’s book:
“A drunk named Jones looked eerily like his father. Thomas realized it was the waxy complexion, the swollen parotids, the loss of the outer third of the eyebrows, and the puffy eyelids of alcoholism that gave both men a leonine appearance. Now that he was trained to see, he put together the other clues he reacalled: red palms, the starburst of capillaries on cheek and neck, the womanly breasts, and the absence of armpit hair.” Lookit; where are their eyebrow-ends??? (pics pinched off the net.)
No doubt my new parking-lot friend had added a bottle of sherry or some-such to his wife’s grocery list. Coincidently, I later read in one of the tabloids that womanly breasts are also a dead-giveaway that men are using Viagra, but I’ll leave it at the missing 1/3rd of the eyebrows for now and move on to the orange sweet potatoes, shall I?
En-route to the mall, I’d been bending Grandy’s ear about Our Betsy scoffing all my pansies and she took it upon herself to buy Betsy a bag of fingerling sweet potatoes. We were most intrigued when we presented these to Betsy: the flesh is bright orange. We’ve never seen anything like it before. Our standard sweet potatoes are a sort of dull beige. Can anyone shed any light?
Betsy seems to like them well enough!