How many of these foods do you recognize?
“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” – Robert Brault
Which is how Noah and I visited six countries in less than two hours without ever leaving Nashville.
Noah’s in town for the weekend and he wanted to go to the Farmer’s Market for some of West Wind Farms’ super yummy sausage. That boy’s a smart one. He may shop the “manager’s special” in the meat case at the Kroger in Knoxville, but he knows quality and when The Bank is in close proximity he will not hesitate to make a withdrawal on his own behalf. The Bank goes along with this cheerfully. Noah wants to know where his food comes from. That works 100 percent of the time at the Farmer’s Market.
But he also wants to know where other people’s food comes from, as in people from other countries and cultures. Which led to our little thing that I will remember as a big thing.
“You want to go to the Russian store?” I ask as we’re pulling out of the market. Noah has taken Russian three years at the University of Tennessee and he adores Russian food. I cannot tell you how happy I am that there’s a Russian store in Nashville. We head down the interstate to Aleksey’s Market in Berry Hill. Russian butter, cheese, rye bread, pelmeni (sort of like tortellini) and birch juice (a traditional Russian soft drink) go into the basket. We are happy.
“Hey, you know the Mexican place I get chorizo is pretty close,” I say as we load our stash into the car. “You want to head over there?” Of course, he does.
Five minutes later we are walking into the Super Mercado at La Hacienda. LaHa, as it’s known around here, was one of the first authentic Mexican restaurants in Nashville and the grocery next door carries all the good stuff. Chorizo, an uncooked loose sausage with a spectacular red chile flavor, has seen many a pizza at the Mayhew homestead and has also found its way wrapped into tortillas mixed with scrambled eggs. Mexican melting cheese is a modern (or maybe not so modern) miracle. We buy both.
Bun Thit Heo Quay
“Have you ever had a Banh Mi?” I ask Noah. “You know, the Asian grocery store is just down the street. And on the weekends, they have special Vietnamese meals, too.” He has never had a Banh Mi, which is a traditional Vietnamese sandwich with roasted pork and pickled vegetables on crunchy French rolls. Another two minutes and we are walking into the wondrous InterAsian Market. One Banh Mi, please, and a container of Bun Thit Heo Quay (crispy roast pork with fresh shrimp over a bed of rice noodles with fresh herbs, peanuts and a spicy sauce).
I am very proud of the boy. He’s gone up and down every aisle at every market we’ve been to, marveling at the diversity of ingredients and sad that he doesn’t know what to do with most of them. Nor do I. But I love the opportunity to learn.
“Well, Noah , if you want to see the Mac Daddy of international markets we need to make one more stop,” I tell him. A few minutes later we pull into the K&S World Market, which has no website and why should it? Everyone in the international community shops there already. From exotic produce to meats hoof to tail to fish so fresh they’re still swimming in tanks, K&S has everything. Since Noah can’t figure out how to transport a live fish from Nashville to Knoxville, he settles on some Pocky (chocolate-covered biscuit sticks from Thailand) and Cholula hot sauce from Mexico.
OK, so I asked at the beginning of this post how many products you recognized. Here are the answers:
From left to right, rye bread (Russia), Rossiyskiy cheese (Russia), Russian butter, birch juice (Russia), Pocky (Thailand), Kirin beer (Japan), chorizo (Mexico), Bun Thit Heo Quay (Vietnamese), Banh Mi (Vietnamese), pelmeni (Russia), West Wind Farms sausage (America), Kale (America) and Mexican melting cheese.
Enjoy the little things. And get out of your comfort zone. There’s a world of flavor out there, folks. And sometimes you don’t even have to leave home to taste it.