Super bodega traveling

We don’t get out much, these days. We’ve got young sons, an old dog, and limited funds. So for us, at the moment, adventures in world travel consist of happy memories of past journeys, or hopeful anticipation of future ones. We have big plans! We’re going everywhere, man! Someday.

I was thinking that some of the most memorable moments in travel involve food. (Or is that just me?) Not just the nice meals, but the strange and unexpected food – so new for you, but probably completely ordinary for somebody else. It’s the snacks you eat out of paper on a park bench on a summer’s night; the oddly good meal you have with a beer, on a train, at 10 o’clock in the morning, because you’re all befuddled about time. Or the welcome, reviving meal you have at some dodgy dive, because your energy is just about gone, that turns out to be some of the best food you’ve ever eaten!

I feel lucky to live in New Jersey (don’t laugh!) This state is so delightfully diverse, that we’re blessed with hundreds of little bodegas and grocery stores, carrying food from all over the world. Food that, to me, is new, bewildering and inspiring, but to somebody else forms a comforting, powerful link to home.

Well, I’ve decided to go on a sort of bodega-hopping quest. I’m going to visit these stores, traveling the world without leaving New Jersey. I’m going to buy 2 or 3 things at each one. Some intriguing ingredient I have no idea how to use. Then I’m going to do a bit of research. Then I’m going to cook with it. Then I’m going to tell you about it! That’s my travel plan for the near future.

I launched it yesterday with a trip to the Super Tropical Food Mart. It’s about an hour from my home, and I’ve been eyeing it up for years. Yesterday I finally took the time to visit. It’s very lovely! They have food from all over. I bought some toasted barley flour from Ecuador, because it’s a nice color, and because toasted & barley are such nice words. I bought some cassava flour, I’m not sure exactly where it’s from, but it’s somewhere in Africa, by way of Newark. (I read the wikipedia entry aloud to my husband, and he was thrilled to learn that it can cause cyanide poisoning if improperly prepared!) I bought some guava paste from Brazil, which I’m very excited about. And I bought some super horchata from El Salvador! Super horchada from the super tropical food mart! Now I have Bob Marley’s Guava Jelly and Vampire Weekend’s Horchata battling it out in my head!

And so the adventure begins! I’ll let you know how it proceeds.


12 thoughts on “Super bodega traveling

  1. Great idea Claire. I was at the flea market on Saturday and was thinking of you as I looked at the wide variety of asian fruits and vegetables. They sell a lot of daikon, which looks like a parsnip, but sadly, isn’t. I may have to research it myself and have a go at cooking it! Have you ever seen a jack fruit? I should mail you one. Looking forward to your next post!

  2. I can’t wait to see what you come up with. It’s not in NJ, but there’s a fantastic Asian Market in Montgomeryville PA, about 45 minutes west of Lambertville. I actually go there fairly frequently.

    • Hmmm… I’ve heard of one in plainsboro, I think, and there’s an Hmart between Highland Park and Metuchen that looks huge!! I’ll look that up. Thanks, Kate.

  3. I love your idea! What a great one – travel where you live and cook what you find. You are so creative anyway. Thanks, also, for the great music – always something new!

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