I love to go to the Asian Market in town. Mostly because I know that soon after I will be enjoying some delicious food.
Today at the Asian Market I had one of those experiences that made me do a double take. I was wandering around the aisles looking for curry paste and bamboo shoots when I heard a man ask, "Finito?" I looked up to see an older Asian gentleman talking to the young Latino boy who worked there. The boy gestured to the cart he was pushing and said, "Si, finito."
Sometimes I think I live in a place that is not all that diverse. Other times, like today, I'm amazed how much mixing of cultures takes place, in many small ways, every day. This experience made me feel nostalgic for all the times I traveled overseas: my first trip out of the US to Korea, my vacation in Thailand, backpacking around Europe, last Christmas in Spain.
There is something wonderfully alienating about being in a place where everything is new: the food, the language, the culture. There is also something awesome (in the literal sense) about being immersed in another world.
After I witnessed this exchange, I wandered the aisles just looking at everything. I love the unfamiliar smells: the sharp tang of unknown spices; the mixing (in the aisles) of food from many cultures, Thai, Vietnamese, Indian; the strange flavors of potato chips (shrimp!); the delightful confections (Pocky!).
When I first moved here, I drove all over town one day looking for ingredients for Thai food: galangal, lime leaves, Thai basil. Now I go to one place. The superstores of Asian markets. I haven't been there in awhile. I guess curry is really a winter food.
But this holiday season, I plan on trying to cook big meals from all the kinds of food I love: an Indian curry, Mexican tamales, and probably at least one more Thai curry.
I'm thankful I live in a city with such a diverse selection of food (and restaurants)!