I Hail from the Exotic, Far Off Land of Minnesota
Don’t ya know.
You know how I’ve always kind of sort of really wanted to live in a foreign country? Well sometimes it feels like I already am living in a foreign country.
I moved to “The South” (I think they get mad if you don’t capitalize it) in late 2003, when the man who would eventually become my husband scooped me up in his pickup truck and carted me and my very limited number of material possessions down to Valdosta, Georgia where, over the years, I would become accustomed to such things as people saying, “I’m fixin‘ to go to the store” and drinking “soda” instead of “pop” and iced tea that already has the sugar added.
But there are certain things about living here that really irritate the crap out of me. Although, I’ll admit that it probably has more to do with living far outside of any major metropolitan area than actually living in The South.
Yesterday afternoon I went to the grocery store. It’s a chain called “Food Lion” (yeah, because that makes sense), and from what I understand without doing some quick Google research, it’s a fairly large chain. And while it’s nice because it’s only 5 minutes from my house (when most other commodities are 35-45 minutes away), it can sometimes leave something to be desired if you’re looking for… less “southern” ingredients.
I will say they have a pretty decent selection of Hispanic food, considering the population around here, but if I’m looking for Asian, Indian, or ingredients from another type of culture, I’d best look elsewhere.
Case in point:
I headed to the store today with 3 new recipes in mind. I left missing at least one ingredient from each recipe, not because Food Lion was out, but because Food Lion – or at least this particular Food Lion – doesn’t stock them.
And these weren’t crazy things, people. I wanted things like orzo, which is just a rice-shaped pasta and not all that uncommon. I wanted a beef brisket, which is just a certain (albeit slightly more expensive) cut of beef. And I wanted some damn Panko breadcrumbs, which are Japanese breadcrumbs, “fluffier” than the stuff you normally buy, but again, I thought not all that uncommon.
I mean… It’s not like I was looking for tripe, which they HAD:
Cow stomach, anyone?
Or beef tongue, which they also HAD:
At the value price of $2.08 for the WHOLE tongue, I’m pretty sure you can’t go wrong.
And who needs Panko breadcrumbs when instead, you can get crumbs made specifically for chicken, pork, fish, general seafood, plain crumbs, seasoned crumbs, Italian crumbs, beer batter, medium-hot, spicy, two varieties of hushpuppy batter, and of course, any variety of Shake ‘n Bake you can imagine.
But NO. F*cking. Panko.
And yes. I realize I’m incredibly fortunate to even have the option of choosing between tripe and tongue (two things that, I’ll admit, I’d probably be in line to try at a renowned restaurant – just not in my own novice kitchen) when there are starving children in the world, but I can’t help it.
The heart wants what it wants.
And my heart wants Panko.
So. I can get what I need by driving a bit further to my favorite Asian market or another large chain grocery store. (Which is not Piggly Wiggly, by the way. Did you know those are real? We actually have one. It’s the only grocery store I’ve ever had to go through a metal detector to get inside. Never. Again.)
So it’s not like I’m living somewhere devoid of all things different. But I have to work a little harder to get them, and something in me longs for the ability to step outside my front door and walk down the street to any variety of specialty shop or restaurant and carry everything home in a couple of reusable bags and call me crazy, but I think I would just be happier overall if the ‘burbs weren’t so… suburban.
How easy is it for you to get your groceries? I know Bec’s chain grocery store has about 4 parking spots, is “missing” one wall, and she can find a million different dried beans, but a tiny block of cheddar cheese is like $8. Many of my former co-workers make the effort to buy from local farmers markets and grow their own vegetables and herbs.
So how about you? Can you walk to your local grocery store? Do you have to visit 12 different stores before you can find all the ingredients you need?
Am I just a big spoiled brat who should stick her beef tongue where the sun don’t shine?
Hey! I might be a little Southern, after all.
Beef tongue is, indeed, quite cultural! Basks hold it at the top of their list in their cultural cuisine. Perhaps you’ll have a chance to try it when you’re in Spain! The English, Welsh to be specific, also considered it a special treat with a raisin sauce over. PS I’ve learned to cook it for Giff, as his mother did for all her children – Welsh, you know, but I must confess that I’m not a fan. It smells like beef, it tastes like beef, but it’s still……………………..just a giant tongue!!!!! :)
I seriously would try it in Spain! I’m pretty much up for trying anything once, but cooking it myself and trying it? No thanks. I bet it’s fantastic when you make it! :)
Ahhhh you must have known I have to go to the grocery today. I won’t even begin to go into details of what I can’t get – I have learned to make due with what I can and roll with it…and get crazy giddy when I visit the far away grocer that sells precious ingredients like cottage cheese and marshmallows! I do wonder in your case though, are you sure they didn’t have an Asian isle, or small section within the isle, that had the panko? In my experience in VA, they never co-mingled cultures, you wouldn’t find Asian bread crumbs with the others, you know how we roll – even the grocers are segregating, how are we supposed to move on in this world??? Even taco seasoning is typically in the taco/Mexican section, not with other seasonings, etc…
They do have a (very) small Asian section, and I checked there, too – although I’m not sure why because all that section really has is soy sauce and heat-and-eat boxed noodle meals. You are SO right – Why are our grocery stores segregated??! I think that’s an entire blog post in itself. ;)
Yuck! I’ve seen some nasty things offered at supermarkets in the ‘burbs. Pickled eggs comes to mind.
Living in NYC, where real estate is at a premium, I have to make do with tiny grocery stores that stock maybe 3-4 varieties of whatever grocery item you may need. Although, I will say it is VERY easy to find panko bread crumbs and beef brisket, as we have a large Asian and Jewish population (not trying to stereotype, but well…and I am Asian and an honorary Jew, by the way). We do, however, have Fresh Direct, which is a home delivery service. Shop online from a pretty wide selection of items (stored in a huge warehouse in Queens) and have it delivered to your door the next day.
Oh, my. Fresh Direct sounds like heaven. And honestly – when you take out all of the non-grocery crap in our big chain stores (toiletries, beauty products, pet supplies, etc.), they’re probably not much bigger than the NYC stores. And that’s what kills me. Like Food Lion is really going to be first on my list for cosmetics.
Hey, want to mail me some panko and brisket? :)
We have a stupid grocery store in walking distance that I’ll send my son to on his bike to grab one or two items that I need right now. Like if I’ve already creamed the butter and sugar together for cookies that I’m craving, and someone decided they needed to make an 8 egg omelette that morning leaving me with no eggs, I’ll turn to the 14yo, say “Here’s a 5, go get me some eggs, and the change is yours.”
But for a better grocery experience, I cross the river(a 7 minute drive) to Wegmans where I can find anything I want. 8 aisles of gluten-free/natural foods, several aisles of Asian, an aisle of Indian(not the same,) fresh Sushi in the deli area(you can watch their sushi chefs preparing it behind the counter,) etc. Both regular Panko & gf Panko crumbs. Love Wegmans. Just like Ikea, there’s a Kid’s Club play area so you can shop without them. Move up north. Experience Wegmans. Grocery shopping anywhere else is just drudgery.
Years after you commented — yes! Wegmans is amazing! We used to have a local grocery store sort of within walking distance (a mile and a half away) in our village outside of Syracuse, but it shut down years ago. And even when it was still there, it was not exactly a great store. In some aisles there would be sections three feet wide and four shelves high of a single product, all the same brand, one deep on the shelf. Not stacked. Just single rows of cans or boxes, all the same thing, three feet wide, four shelves high. Move down a bit, and there’s another single product… We didn’t shop there much. LOL
You know, we have friends who live in Syracuse and they LOVE Wegmans too! In fact, we had entire conversations about it when they came to visit a few months ago. Sigh. I want a Wegmans. We do have a Harris Teeter (maybe 45 minutes away from my house) where I make it a point to shop if I’m out that way. They definitely have a better selection than my Food Lion, but nowhere close to what you’re describing at Wegmans. And a kid play area?? Love it.
(P.S. I didn’t mean to imply that Asian and Indian are the same, if that’s what it looked like in my post. I was naming 2 very different types of food and then got lazy and pretty much said “and all others.” But thanks for clarifying! :)
(P.P.S. I would love to have an errand boy to go do my quick grocery trips. I’d never have to set foot in the Food Lion again…)
You and Justin do need to come visit so you can experience Wegmans. We live only a few minutes from their flag ship location…
But if you really need your Panko bread crumbs, let me know and we can send you some.
Luckily my friend was able to pick some up for me at the Harris Teeter near where she works (about 45 minutes away). We really DO want to visit you guys at some point, though! And not just for your grocery store. :)
I think it is “The Grass is Always Greener” syndrome, because I am living where I can hit the corner store and get all kinds of ehtnic goodies, fresh baked breads, fresh ground coffee, and home grown veges and hand picked eggs, but dammit I want me some Chick Fil A!
Shut yo’ filthy mouth! You’re in GERMANY, woman! C’mon… you can think of better fast food to crave than that. Like Zaxby’s! Zax sauce…mmm…. :)
Oh yeah, and by the way that is a really big tounge…Tee Hee!
I posted that picture for you. ;)
I didn’t think you were implying they were the same, I was just differentiating for people that aren’t familiar, that Wegmans doesn’t smoosh all the ethnic foods in one tiny aisle. There’s actually an entire aisle of Indian, followed by a couple of Asian(the first one’s mostly Chinese, the next mostly Japanese, etc.) followed by a Mideast aisle where you’ll find falafel mix, etc.
And if you have friends in Syracuse, then the invitation is for real open. If you and your hubs ever find yourselves in Upstate NY, drop me a line and you’re welcome to margaritas by the pool (or peppermint bark martinis by the fire, depending on the season.)
Ahh, gotcha! That’s awesome they have so many unique sections! Sigh. To think of all the awesome (and probably many horrible) things I could make with all of those choices… I’d probably spend hours at the grocery store since I’m not good at making decisions.
Thanks for the invite!! We’re hoping to make it up that way eventually, but not sure if Justin will have enough vacation this year with Spain and some guy trips he has planned. But man… both seasonal options sound fantastic. You’re more than welcome here, too. We can sit in the garage and drink beer because that’s what people do here. ;)
So did you ever make it up here? Even if you did, you should come again — the Wegman’s on Rt. 5 has expanded — you can practically live there. ;)
lol, that beef tongue looks pretty awesome!
If I need to buy food then I can head down the street to a GIANT Stop and Shop, or across the street to Rite Aid, or futher down the street to Shaws, and if I still need something I can even travel slightly in the other direction to BIG Y. Then, if I still can’t find what I need, I can give up and drive-through any friggin fast food restaurant that you can possibly think of. If you can think of it, I bet I’m near at least two of them (I have 5 Dunkin Donuts, all within walking distance of each other).
Hmmm, maybe thats why I hate cities so much, I practically live in one already… and t
hats probably why I want to get the heck outta here!
p.s. – In Iceland their gracery store was called “BONUS” only the letter “O” was a pig’s face. I didn’t think that made much sense either.
Ha, doesn’t it though?
And yeah… you’re making living in a city sound awful, too. There are places that offer a happy medium – like Frederick, MD, where people can live above small shops and restaurants on a main street, easily walk to any small commodity store around, but then get in their cars and drive a few minutes to a larger chain if they need something else.
Bonus, huh? I love noticing things like that about other countries… and then wonder what people must think about some of our establishments when they come here – especially when they head out to suburban America! (Which could pretty much be anywhere because it all looks the same.)
hahahahahaha! tongues are pretty disconcerting, right??
Omg I could see actual tastebuds.
A particularly graphic package of tongue, with it curved like that. I’ve been grossed out by packages of tongue in person, but that one has a little extra something. :-)
I think it’s a little humorous that you’re comparing life in the South to your life in Minnesota, which doesn’t exactly have the reputation of being the multi-cultural, metropolitan sort of place… But that view comes from the stereotypical representation in movies like New in Town.
Here in the suburban/rural Pacific NW there is not much cultural variety to food either. Even for what we have, I have to drive about 7 miles. That’s OK, since I wouldn’t want to trade my 2 1/3 acres for down-the-street shopping. My horizons were widened a little bit by Whole Foods and PCC Natural Markets when visiting them with my daughters who lived in Seattle. An hour away in our county, we have Central Market, which is way better than what we have here in our area, but still doesn’t offer things like Falafel chips and other delicacies I’ve searched for. They do have Panko, though!
Haha, sorry – I should’ve prefaced this post with a warning about the graphic cow tongue shot. And I definitely wasn’t comparing to life in Minnesota! I was mostly making fun of myself for making fun of the south because I AM from Minnesota, which has its own set of stereotypes. ;)
I love your part of the country. The Washington and Oregon coasts are one of the most beautiful parts of the U.S. I’ve seen…
Have to say, we rarely get to the coast…But I LOVE how I can drive around my little area and see 2 mountain ranges, views of the Seattle skyline, lakes, and Puget Sound. And it’s only 1 to 3 hours to get to mountains or ocean. I also love that we have seasons, as I couldn’t do Christmas in t-shirt and shorts weather. I wouldn’t trade my setting, even if a little limited on grocery variety. :-)
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I feel you on this post. I’m a bona fide (had to google how to spell that…we really have a lot in common I think) city girl and I actually get physically uncomfortable NOT being able to walk to where I want to go. It really makes no sense, considering I grew up in the ‘burbs and neither of my parents particularly loved the city, but I don’t think I could live without it. And once you live within walking distance, you can’t go back to the ‘burban life. For a small period of time after graduating university I had to move back into my parent’s house and it drove me crazy! I couldn’t find good sushi to save my life, let alone any of the ingredients to make it myself. There was literally one Indian restaurant in the entire city and it was buffet Indian food, which, if you know anything about Indian food, can get kind of nasty. I also had the same difficulty finding orzo (seriously…it’s just pasta, people!) and other random things…for me, at the time, it was worth it to drive the 30 minutes to the only grocery store that carried these items. That being said, the novelty of carrying around reusable grocery bags full of groceries back home (especially up a hill like me!) wears off quickly :)
That’s true – the downside of not using a car to carry all your junk home is that you have to carry all your junk home. But try to look at it as great exercise and a way to help the environment. ;)
So are you back in a city now? If so, consider me officially jealous.
I do tend to consider it my daily workout, hence why my gym pass has collected a nice layer of dust on it…and yes, I do live back in the city now. I actually sold my car because the public transit where I live is so amazing it’s actually faster than driving to most places! The downside being, of course, that for the price of a 3-4 bedroom house in virtually any other smaller city, I live in a 650 s.f. condo haha…probably why I design vicariously through my clients.
I want to live somewhere amazing. :(
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[…] can’t say that about the value priced tongue at my local Food Lion now, can […]
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I hope you’re still reading the comments on this blog. :) This post was hilarious — I loved it!
I can’t exactly relate… I grew up as the daughter of missionaries down in Brazil in the 1970s. Our grocery store was in easy walking distance, but peanut butter was a delicacy, rarely available; cottage cheese had to be brought back in from the U.S. in a cooler; and maple syrup was made at home with sugar water and maple extract my mom doled out in scant spoonfuls. On the other hand, my mom once splurged on filet mignon at the butcher shop, and when she got home, she pulled out her calculator, converted kilos to pounds, cruzeiros to dollars, and found she’d paid 99 cents a pound. For filet mignon. :)
These days I live outside Syracuse, New York, and I shop at Wegman’s, as I’ve mentioned in my replies to some of the other comments. I also used to live in Oklahoma City and shop at Piggly Wiggly, and in Austin TX where I shopped at H.E.B.