Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Stolen Minutes at a Local Ethnic Grocery Market

Yesterday, I stole a few minutes to enjoy the simple pleasures of a local ethnic grocery market. I bought twelve fat handmade beef tamales for $11. The butcher wouldn't sell me his last two chicken tamales because they were "too watery." The roma tomatoes were perfectly red ripe and and cost half of that charged by Albertsons. It is bell pepper season, and they were huge, aromatic and grass green. An employee smiled and boasted that the salsa and Mexican crema were freshly made that day. There were six varieties of apples, but they had not been waxed or oiled like at the chain supermarkets.

The check out register doesn't always work well, and it rang up my three pounds of tomatoes as $94.12. The clerk apologized too many times. The two behind me in line chuckled in patience. People were lined up at a tiny window to pay phone bills or Western Union money to Mexico,and their line blocked the exit.

This is not some trendy farmer's market in an urban area with no farm land within fifty miles (Do you ever wonder where all those "farmers" come from?), nor is it Williams-Sonoma set in a strip mall. The building is shabby, and the glass doors are smudged with childrens' fingerprints. The parking lot has potholes and too few parking spaces. The air conditioning system is too small for the building. The store is rich with smells and sounds and people of all ages.

It is the kind of store that tourists visit when in other countries, and brand as colorful and exotic. It is the kind of store they never visit in their hometown.

Send emails to me at DeborahWhite@UniqueRecipes.com.

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