Largely Fruit and veg, exotic breads, frozen pasta, fresh pasta, dairy foods including lovely cheeses, marscapone and a variety of creams. Homus, fresh salads, salamis, smoked salmon, trout and other deli delights - pasta sauces, pesto, weird Chinese thingies and European cakes and biscuits, even exotic teas and some things I'm not sure what to do with. There's a huge nut bar, where you can help yourself to a variety of unsalted nuts or dried fruit. Today's specials included Chinese cabbage for 99cents, three bunches of asparagus for $5.00, three bunches of baby bok choy for 99cents, bags of red peppers for $1.00, Macadamias were $14 a kilo and mangoes, the first delicious Bowen yellowness of the season just $19 a box!
The butcher too is huge with a wide variety of meats and due to the high Chinese population in Parramatta serves cuts of meat I've never heard of. In fact I don't really want to know what a Pork Maw is but I tell you it doesn't look much more appetising than the chicken feet. However, they do have fillet steak for $15 a kilo, ham off the bone, not that wet supermarket stuff that comes from sausage shaped pigs, chicken breasts for $6.99 and other daily specials. They have home made sausages (which of course you know I never buy), two small fresh chickens for $8.00.
But what makes this place rather sweet is the spruikers. There are two youngish men, young, solid and looking slightly Lebanese with the tiniest of giveaway accents and booming voices. They clearly love their job and the opportunity to promote their produce.
One stands by an electric frypan, cooking up the special of the day. Today it was sirloin steak, selling for half price at $6.99 a kilo. Marinated and cooked to perfection and being proffered on little toothpicks for any willing punter. His voice bellowed across the entire floor enticing shoppers to take advantage. The other, similarly Lebanese Australian, was just outside the door selling boxes (that's about 24 punnets) of strawberries for $10. Clearly they were all 'ready to eat' and wouldn't have lasted well for more than a couple of days but some entrepreneurial person bought ten or twelve boxes and was selling them up the road for $2.50 a punnet.
The charmer of this little multicultural retail wonderland is a Downs Syndrome kid. He's older than most, at a guess about 25. He has a girlfriend, I know because he told me and his name is Nick and for some reason, he always remembers mine. He's now trying his hand at spruiking. He's hired mainly to stack fruit and sweep the floor and in true 'Downs' fashion is very friendly, very sweet and always ready for a chat if you have the patience to wait and try to understand him. He'll yell something that sounds like 'ga yi blorr anaringes . . thix a tay dillers' which I think is six blood oranges for two dollars. Then I could be mistaken, perhaps he's abusing shoppers suggesting that we're "bloody urang utans and thick as school dinners"
Today, as you do, I hit the sunshine by Parramatta River at lunch time, armed with little more than a Dare Double Espresso iced coffee and a cigarette and this kid was standing on a small wharf which to the world looks like a little stage protruding from the bank out over the river's edge.
His iPod firmly wedged in his ears, he was oblivious to all around him. He performed, he shimmied, he threw a defiant fist in the air and sang. He bowed and thanked the invisible crowd. Or maybe he was thanking the pigeons and seagulls who seemed to enjoy his rendition of John Farnham's "Your the Voice".
You know, it was charming to see someone who clearly knew what they were doing and didn't give a rats arse about who saw him doing it. He spent a full 20 minutes parading with an imaginary microphone, yelling out his encore with the bass clearly banging in his head and 'the voice' screaming his best rendition before graciously saying "Thank you very much, you're a great crowd and here's another one of my favourites . . John Farnham the LEGEND . . and You're the Voice!" (again . . I think it's the only song on his iPod).
I went back into the panic pre-Board paper preparation thinking about these three young men and how they seemed to be loving their work, engaging with shoppers and doing what they do with little or no regard for what people thought of them. They were happy, smiling, clearly making the most of their laborious day.
Now that's freedom, that's being in the zone, that's knowing who and what you are and having it sit so well with you that you don't care what others think . . I long for that kind of self assurance. Pity this little 15 minute respite is over so quickly and I have to go back and face the troll bitch and her scowling face and vicious recriminations of her own staff. How does someone with all the money and power in the world manage to maintain such rage? I think I'd like to work in Harris Farm and entice shoppers to try marinated Pork Maw on the barbie.