We learned of a Chinese grocer in da 'hood a few months ago. He runs a modest and tidy shop across the street from the post office. The shelves are stocked with all sorts of colorful packages from China and other asian mysteries. Most amazing of all: we discovered he sells fresh tofu! His family makes it, right there on the premises. We have never tasted such tofu before, so wonderfully fresh and flavorful, perfectly textured and delicious!

This tofu is not on display anywhere. You have to know to ask for it.

So now we make a habit of visiting him once a week or so, picking up some packaged Chinese delicacies and a few chunks of fresh tofu. Over time we have gotten to know his wife and daughter a little bit, too. And in appreciation of our trade, he sometimes gives us a petit cadeaux, a small gift with our purchases.

Regrettably, our language skills have some pretty major gaps, and on this occasion we just barely got the jist that our gift was some kind of fruit. Though judging from his demeanor, we also got that it was something he thought was important and pretty special. He seemed quite eager for us to have it, and with hand gestures tried to explain how we should prepare it.

Fruit? Oh, really? It sure didn't look like any fruit to me. The thing looked more like an artichoke or a huge brussel sprout or some other thing ghastly and vegetal.

It was hard not to feel skeptical and suspicious. We brought the thing home and examined it carefully. Was it really edible? Was it safe? Was this some kind of trick?

What should we do with it now?

Lomé, Togo, July 2008.

Rolleiflex SL66, Neopan 400.