Strolling through the market of Milton Keynes this lunch time was a potent reminder of something important that I used to know, but had recently forgotten.
I normally shop at a massive Sainsbury’s simply because it is the closest food store to where I live. It is easy to wonder in, see the hundreds of aisles and think “Wow, this shop sells everything! What amazing variety”. But once again, I now realise just how naïve this point of view is. You could point me at any item of food in that whole store, and almost without exception, I would be able to identify it and say how it is used.
Contrast to the food markets and stalls by the shopping centre, where every other item is alien to me. There were fruits I did not recognise, tins of unidentifiable pulses, and little cakes (at least I think they were cakes) that resembled very fine spaghetti. Vegetables are sold by weight, half the items do not have a price label, and the stock is wonderfully inconsistent. All this makes for a very exciting food experience.
As I shuffled sideways through the narrow aisles, the shop keeper asked me if I was alright, and whether I would like to by some odd looking fish. I politely declined, but now sitting at home on my comfortable bed, I wish I had not. I’d never seen fish kept in such a way; it almost looked like it had just been left to rot, however the lack of smell suggested otherwise. On the way out of the shop, I spotted this enormous, spikey thing sitting in a crate near the front. Now this thing did smell. So my best guess is that it was a durian fruit.
So many unfamiliar things that so many people around the world eat. I am trapped in the bubble of western flavours, so as of next week, I will work to break free of these constraints by banning myself from using big-chain supermarkets. It’s going to be a major experiment, but I don’t doubt it’ll be eye opening and it may even save me some dollar. I’m excited.
P.S. don’t you dare comment that getting a Chinese takeaway or going to a tandoori restaurant in the UK count as ‘not western flavours’