Grocery store tourist


A few days back, browsing Instagram, like you do, I came upon someone’s description of themselves that stopped me cold. Grocery store tourist. I think there were a few other words shared, but those ones really resonated with me. I wanted to rewrite my Instagram profile on the spot, but I didn’t quite feel right about reusing that description. But it’s just so perfect for me.

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I hadn’t really thought about it in those specific terms, but I am that grocery store tourist. Take me to any grocery store and don’t expect to leave anytime soon. I am going to wander the aisles—up and down every last one of them. I want to see everything that is on offer. Unique produce, unusual sweets, new tea varieties and let me not forget the dairy section.


Even better is the foreign grocery store in a faraway country. English is not the main language here, leaving me puzzling over the few words that I can piece together on the packaging. And try finding your way around a grocery store organized in a non-American configuration. Where, oh where, did they put the salt? But that is the adventure—never knowing what I’ll find next. Maybe a different variety of Haribo candy or a wall of rosé at the corner quick mart.

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Sometimes grocery stores play a key role in my travels. Recently I visited a friend in California and planned some time to go to a Persian grocery store, eat an authentic meal and stop by an ice cream shop. (More on that later!) Inspired by a magazine article here, a new cookbook there and this crazy curiosity that propels us cooking types into new territory, I wanted to make some Persian food. Reading through recipes proved that I would need some exciting ingredients and maybe a dash of inspiration. And where better to find both of those things than wandering the tight aisles of a little shop looking for the ingredients on my list.


I found bags of fresh sour cherries at the counter and a baskets of vibrant fresh herbs. Bottles of stacked yogurt sodas, doogh, like I had just enjoyed with my meal, spilled into the narrow walkway. Tucked away in the back corner of the shop was the spice wall, covered in little hanging packets, all neatly arranged like a fine art display. Rows of fancy brands of orange flower and red rose water. I came away with a bag of puckery sour smelling dried limes and a plastic clamshell of tiny dried barberries that should last me for a while! My surprise discovery was a supply of fruit leathers, sour cherry, pomegranate and plum, that I had to try. Sweet success at the grocery store.

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Not long ago back home, a friend was sharing his supply of fancy German mustard at a backyard party and I took a measured dollop to enjoy with my hotdog. Mmmm! Another friend texted me to let me know she spotted fresh figs in a local store. While the description of grocery store tourist took me by surprise, I hardly think I am alone. Thank goodness…


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