Quirks in Food and People: Three Two or Thirty-two

I went to the market to get some meat, because I felt like I wasn't getting enough meat to eat these days. It was a hot and sunny day when I went to the big, wet market near where I live, and as usual, it was bustling with activity on an early Sunday morning.

I approached the beef stall, which was complete with well-dented wooden chopping blocks, rows of hanging meat parts and busy butchers behind the counter just chopping away like there's no tomorrow while chatting happily with their patrons and co-workers alike.

"I'd like some meat for...", I said, pausing slightly to remember what it was that I wanted to cook the meat with, "making curry".

I thought it would be pretty close to the type of meat I needed since they probably wouldn't understand it if I said I needed the meat for nikujaga (a type of Japanese stew made of beef or pork meat, potatoes and onions). Of course the recipe calls for sliced meat, but oh well, you get what you can at a wet market selling meat by the block. I guess I'll just have to slice it myself when I get back.

When I asked for the price, the butcher said, "Three two per kilogram". With my mind still blurry on the morning after a previous long day's work, and me being a little uncertain about the prices of meat, I honestly thought he meant RM 3.20, as in 3 ringgit and 20 cents (the type of price that you usually get for a soda or coffee at a food court).

I swiftly handed him three RM 1 pieces and two 10-cent coins, only to be met by his puzzled face.

"Thirty two ringgit", he repeated, looking unsure of why this customer was paying one-tenth of the price he was selling the meat for.

Realizing my mistake and not wanting to look like a fool any longer, I handed him a RM 50 note, got my change and package of meat, then walked straight out of the market in embarrassment.

There were two lessons that I learned that day. One, that I will never again do such a humiliating mistake, and two, that you can never underestimate the prices of meat in the city.

TPF

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