On a recent trip to Florida, Team FIN farmer Jeff Ryan explores an Asian food market where he finds quite a few unfamiliar items on the shelves.
Let's face it, I don't get out much. It's good to get out in the world and see some things once in a while. A guy can get a little too sheltered if he stays on the farm all the time and doesn't see how the rest of the world lives. As you may have noticed, most of my foreign travel involves trips to World Showcase at Epcot every once in a while. Sure, that's not exactly the same experience as actually going to a foreign country, but it's way more than I'd get if I stayed in Iowa the whole time.
We branched out a bit on a recent trip to Florida. A friend is a professor at a university in central Florida, so we stopped by to see her for a few days. We went to a local place featured on The Food Network's "Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives" program and had some great food. I can honestly say that it was the best octopus I've ever had. That led to the option of going to one of my friend's favorite Thai restaurants. Spice is good, in my opinion, so Thai food with some heat was right up my alley. The best part of this particular location, my friend felt, was the fact that it was close to a really good Asian market. Much like octopus consumption, my lifetime exposure to Asian markets was, let me think, zero at that point, so I decided to jump on this bandwagon and see what was out there.
You want to talk about stepping into another world! The second we got in the door, it was completely different than I imagined. The layout was a bit more similar to a regular grocery store you'd find anywhere in America, but the product choices were incredibly diverse. I started snapping pictures right away as Sherill started to laugh. She knew this was too good not to end up as one of these stories.
I was making a mental list of all the "Well, I can't get ________ at my local grocery store," when the hard drive in my brain started to squeal and then smoke. Perhaps I'd have to go back to the vehicle and get another memory card for my phone! There were way too many cool food items for me to be able to properly document this adventure. (By the time I wad done, I had taken more than 120 photos.) And it wasn't just foods I hadn't seen before. It was food containers I hadn't seen. There were papayas that looked like they were wrapped in paper the way you'd store stuff before moving from your college apartment to your first house. They were next to a variety of pears (Korean Pears, Ya Pears, Sweet Pears) that were in some sort of individual fiber mesh bag. At anywhere from $1.20 to $2.99 per pear, I wasn't sure how much of that cost was for the actual pear and how much was for the pear papoose. You'd have though both Harry & David were packaging consultants to this store. There had to be structural or civil engineers involved in that deal somehow. They probably had some long-lasting psychological effect from growing up in a house with a lot of macrame plant hangers, deep shag carpet and olive appliances in the 1970's.
Too bad Sigmund Freud couldn't be with us to explain a few things.
Then we moved to the section where we found banana blossoms, lotus seeds, quail eggs (in water, of course, because who wants them dry and flaky?), kimchi (You just thought of that episode of "M*A*S*H" like I did, I bet.), roasted young coconut juice in a jar, coconut water (in a can like a Diet Pepsi), pickled ginger, preserved duck eggs, minced ginger and dried apricot seeds, just to name a few of things on the shelves in that area.