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Culinary Culture Clash


melamed
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I decided to go to the traveling Ramla/Lod shuk to buy a saj (an upside down wok for baking flat bread). This market is not an organized place like the more famous ones in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, but a crowded and filled not with tourists but busy people looking for a bargan. There are Bedouins, Arabs, Ethiopians, religious Jews, it was hot, crowded, stinky and loud, and I loved it.

I pickup the saj from the Arab seller and proceeded to wander around the suk looking to buy vegetables. Every 10 steps an Arab or Bedouin women would stop me and ask "You know how to make pita on the saj?". I told them that I am learning. Finally a Bedouin asks me how I make my bread so I tell her that I take a 1kg of flour.....

"a kg of flour! ha, ha ha!! we always use at least 10 kg" It was so in congruous for them to see me with the saj. Sort of like a bedouin walking around the suk with a platter of sushi rolls.

Perhaps not a clash but a bridge?

Do you have any stories that brings two cultures together?

Cheers, Sarah

http://sarahmelamed.com/

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I live in Los Angeles which has a very diverse mix of cultures and there is alot of crossover in markets. In the 17 years that I have frequented my 99 Ranch Market (a large Chinese chain with excellent variety) it has broadened its horizons across SE Asia and the customer profile has expanded to include not just SE Asians but also customers with backgrounds from the Indian subcontinent and Latin America. Fridays during Lent are a riot because of the Latin American customers purchasing fish and all that time in line leads to lots of recipe exchange.

That said, there are small markets I go into where the proprietors or other customers upon seeing me pick up something unusual will ask me " So- you know how to make "x"?" and that starts the process of exchange. It certainly also works in reverse when I ask another customer how they will prepare something I am not so familiar with. Oddly enough, other Anglo customers will ask me how to prepare something perhaps because they are embarassed to ask the regulars in that market.

I can't afford to travel right now, but going to market it almost as good!

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I live in Los Angeles which has a very diverse mix of cultures and there is alot of crossover in markets. In the 17 years that I have frequented my 99 Ranch Market (a large Chinese chain with excellent variety) it has broadened its horizons across SE Asia and the customer profile has expanded to include not just SE Asians but also customers with backgrounds from the Indian subcontinent and Latin America. Fridays during Lent are a riot because of the Latin American customers purchasing fish and all that time in line leads to lots of recipe exchange.

That said, there are small markets I go into where the proprietors or other customers upon seeing me pick up something unusual will ask me " So- you know how to make "x"?" and that starts the process of exchange. It certainly also works in reverse when I ask another customer how they will prepare something I am not so familiar with. Oddly enough, other Anglo customers will ask me how to prepare something perhaps because they are embarassed to ask the regulars in that market.

I can't afford to travel right now, but going to market it almost as good!

The checkout line is a great way of meeting people and I have made best friends with some of them! Like you mentioned, someone would cast a glance in the shopping cart and the questions would begin "What do you do with burghul, how do you make polenta, is that blue cheese any good?..." Israeli's are a gregarious bunch. Mixed markets are much more fun and there is much to learn from them.

Cheers, Sarah

http://sarahmelamed.com/

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When I lived in California one time I was shopping in a Pan-Asian market, and had Chinese, Japanese, Thai, and Vietnamese groceries in my cart. The checkout guy looked at it and said "So, are you from Hawaii or what?"

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When I lived in California one time I was shopping in a Pan-Asian market, and had Chinese, Japanese, Thai, and Vietnamese groceries in my cart.  The checkout guy looked at it and said "So, are you from Hawaii or what?"

:laugh: Living in Hawaii, I can really appreciate that!

I've also had people from various ethnic cultures strike up conversations after looking in my shopping basket at the checkout stand because they can figure out from the groceries exactly what dish I'm cooking for dinner that evening!

SuzySushi

"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

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If you ever want to crack the normal composure of the average Japanese person on the street in Japan, send your non-Japanese husband down the road from the market with a large bundle of negi (leeks) sticking out of his backpack. Follow several paces behind so they think he's alone. Watch hilarity ensue.

I've seen little old ladies screech to a halt on their bicycles and point, young couples fall down laughing, and businessmen whip their heads around and stare. I wonder what they think he has planned? :biggrin:

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When visiting my partner's familly in a small town in Hubei, China, I decided to get up early to help one of my partner's relative, who owns a small breakfast restaurant, prepare baozi and mantou (steamed buns). Although the buns I made were not the nicest ones, far from it, that little breakfast restaurant was extremely popular that morning. It was fun to see people still drowsy getting all exited at the sight of what they probably assumed to be a rich westerner working there.

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Once in a spice shop the spiceman refused to sell me a spice which he knew I didn't know how to use, it was enough just looking at me. He was right of course, I had no clue, so now I need to do some research and go back there, or perhaps pay someone who blends in more to buy it for me :raz:

Cheers, Sarah

http://sarahmelamed.com/

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I have become acquainted with people in ethnic markets who have since become long-time friends, just because I asked questions about a particular food item.

Soon after moving up here I was in a local Filipino market purchasing several items, including a bottle of banana ketchup. A woman standing behind me asked if I knew that I could make my own which would taste much better than the bottled stuff. After checking out, we continued our conversation in the parking lot and she invited me to her home to see how to make the ketchup. We have been friends ever since and I have learned a lot I would never have gotten from cookbooks.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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When visiting my partner's familly in a small town in Hubei, China, I decided to get up early to help one of my partner's relative, who owns a small breakfast restaurant, prepare baozi and mantou (steamed buns). Although the buns I made were not the nicest ones, far from it, that little breakfast restaurant was extremely popular that morning. It was fun to see people still drowsy getting all exited at the sight of what they probably assumed to be a rich westerner working there.

Yeah, I know that feeling, I (white, american girl) once worked in a pizzeria in a small town in Mexico--I am pretty sure a lot of people got a kick out of having a little white girl doing all the dirty work at the pizza place.

Gnomey

The GastroGnome

(The adventures of a Gnome who does not sit idly on the front lawn of culinary cottages)

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A few weeks ago, I was in Washington DC, and my Moroccan cabdriver was eating the spiral flatbread (I forget its name). He told us that bread had been baked by his mother in Morocco the day before and brought to him by another relative who had flown over for a visit. We began talking food and I mentioned I needed to buy a tagine. He immediately offered to take me to the local suk, and when I agreed, turned the meter off and away we went. He haggled for a tagine on my behalf, carried it out of the suk for me, and delivered me and my tagine back to my hotel. I got his card and made peanut brittle and sent to him when I got home.

Don't ask. Eat it.

www.kayatthekeyboard.wordpress.com

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A few weeks ago, I was in Washington DC, and my Moroccan cabdriver was eating the spiral flatbread (I forget its name). He told us that bread had been baked by his mother in Morocco the day before and brought to him by another relative who had flown over for a visit. We began talking food and I mentioned I needed to buy a tagine. He immediately offered to take me to the local suk, and when I agreed, turned the meter off and away we went. He haggled for a tagine on my behalf, carried it out of the suk for me, and delivered me and my tagine back to my hotel. I got his card and made peanut brittle and sent to him when I got home.

Welcome to eGullet! What a nice first post decribing a wonderful cross-cultural experience! :smile:

SuzySushi

"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

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A few weeks ago, I was in Washington DC, and my Moroccan cabdriver was eating the spiral flatbread (I forget its name). He told us that bread had been baked by his mother in Morocco the day before and brought to him by another relative who had flown over for a visit. We began talking food and I mentioned I needed to buy a tagine. He immediately offered to take me to the local suk, and when I agreed, turned the meter off and away we went. He haggled for a tagine on my behalf, carried it out of the suk for me, and delivered me and my tagine back to my hotel. I got his card and made peanut brittle and sent to him when I got home.

Welcome to eGullet! What a nice first post decribing a wonderful cross-cultural experience! :smile:

That was a great post, totally made me smile :biggrin:

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A few weeks ago, I was in Washington DC, and my Moroccan cabdriver was eating the spiral flatbread (I forget its name). He told us that bread had been baked by his mother in Morocco the day before and brought to him by another relative who had flown over for a visit. We began talking food and I mentioned I needed to buy a tagine. He immediately offered to take me to the local suk, and when I agreed, turned the meter off and away we went. He haggled for a tagine on my behalf, carried it out of the suk for me, and delivered me and my tagine back to my hotel. I got his card and made peanut brittle and sent to him when I got home.

Very nice. Once while taking a cab, I became friends with the taxi driver,

a friendly fellow from Morocco, he's the first one I call if I want a taxi because if I want a recipe he calls one of his many clients to get it for me (like pumpkin spread for fricasee). When he heard I wanted to make couscous, he called his wife to schedule a meeting. Next time I was at a french bakery I picked up a few croissants for him because I knew he was very fond of them.

Edited by melamed (log)

Cheers, Sarah

http://sarahmelamed.com/

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Melbourne, Australia second largest and highly cosmopolitan city various markets mainly Asian exists in close proximity of each other nowadays it can be compared to Singapore a melting pot of Asian cultures. Anglo Australian and of Europeans descend shay away but we are very wise when shopping for food stuff and ingredients as Australian travel a lot and almost daily to Asian destinations news travel home fast we know what's good and what's bad pretty soon.

Asian cookware is pretty cheap and ingredients not always good fish, shellfish and vegies cheap but sometimes they could contain bacteria or high levels of mercury still allowed into the country as random batch testing is performed but more stricter quarantine laws are needed to prevent bad foodstuffs coming in.

Asian restaurants were highly patronised ten or more years ago but nowadays quite a few were featured as unhealthy eating and were shown on tv as vermin ridden and plain unhealthy.

Likewise South Eastern asian butchers tend to keep meat at temperatures above 4C perhaps 10C so cheap does not always reflect healthy eating.

Markets are great for cultures but beware of what you get for your money value is one thing getting ill is another side effect of market cultures.

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