Friday, July 12, 2013

✻ Friday Food Fair ✻

I know that I often talk about how I miss being in the country, how much I miss my family in Kansas and how "there's no place like home". (And that line is brilliant, because it's indeed true.)

However, there are certain things about being in the city that over the years I've grown to love.
The Events.
The shops.
The communities within the city....

The Markets

As silly as this might sound, if I were to ever leave the city, this would be one of the things I would miss the most. Right after my own friends and community, of course. 

If I hadn't moved to Canada, I don't think I would have the passion I do today for finding new, and different (and sometimes seemingly downright bizarre) foods when I shop at these ethnic markets and shops that are scattered throughout our city.

 I do realize that there are American cities that hold the same treasures, but I assure you, I lived no where near these places. 
If I still lived where I did, I have not a single doubt in my mind that my grocery shopping would be limited to the local Walmart and Krogers. My widest sense of culture would include some Mexican, Runza hut, and the local American-Chinese Buffet. 
Of course there would definitely be some freedom in getting food from local farms-which would be fantastic. But that's another post.

When I first visited Canada, we stayed in Toronto with some friends, close to Chinatown. I remember walking down the sidewalk of this overwhelmingly busy city in complete awe, and a little bit of shock (and possibly experiencing a little bit of PTSD over the whole subway thing,)  at how close together the buildings were, how people didn't all have their own driveway or even their own front yards, but most of all, how different "groceries" were. 

Milk came in bags, first of all. 
I still think that's gross, and quite wrong, for the record, but there it is. 

But this was so much more than bagged milk. 

 This was about the live chickens in make-shift shopping cart cages being sold on the sidewalk.

Roasted Chickens hanging in windows
The flopping fish laid out on beds of ice. 
Yogurt in twenty varieties alone without even including the ones that were flavoured. 
Cheeses besides just Mozzerella and Cheddar, that you didn't even have to make yourself. Sausages hanging from open rafter ceilings in mesh bags.

Fast food didn't have to be McDonalds or Wendys

(I later learned on the same trip that Canada did indeed have these places too, and I unabashedly admit, breathed a small sigh of relief. I could learn to love Ronald even though he did have a small, unfamiliar maple leaf on the pocket of his fashionably horrible, but internationally loved, striped shirt.)

Fast food here could mean buying a cup of coffee and a doughnut from the man wearing a turban standing at a booth full of newspapers at that terrible, damaging, subway station.
I had recently seen Annie. I asked my Dad if that man was "Punjab". He may have been, but i'm sure that wasn't his name.

It could mean buying a sausage from a man who just happened to have his bbq with him on the street corner. 
Please note, I was young.

Or buying a big bowl of noodle soup, so big it could feed our whole family, from the restaurant that didn't bother to hang curtains in their kitchen windows, even though the kitchen, oddly, happened to be right at the front of their restaurant.  
I may have been just a little bit dumb, too.

My favorite "Canadian" fast food became bbq pork and curry beef buns from the tung hing bakery. The curry beef was so spicy to my little untrained palette that I remember my ear drums burning. And I liked it.

Although, I remember being so thirsty- to the point of tears, and I really could have used some water. And at the time, bottled water wasn't really a thing yet, and it was near impossible to get a cup of water at an authentic Chinese restaurant or bakery.
So I had to settle for scalding hot Jasmine tea that blistered the roof of my mouth.
Jasmine and I have never really been good friends since that incident.

I naively thought that all of Canada was like this. 
I later learned that we were moving to another city entirely, not Toronto, and certainly not Chinatown, but to a city with the same old boring chain grocery stores, with plentiful hints of promise for something more. A city that grew to have a lot of the same wonderful places and cultures of people.

We are so very blessed to be able to have the world at our doorstep.

And it's not just about the food. Sure, the food tastes amazing, and is full of surprises. But it's also the people. The stories behind the foods and where they came from.The history behind it all. Why did they think to do this, with these spices, to this vegetable? How did they turn this mundane grain into something so magical?

Ask anyone in my family, and they'll tell you that I'm the one to come to for weird food or beverages. And it's true. I'll be the first to try anything that I haven't seen before. 
Yes, Sometimes it's only once.
I have ordered things in restaurants that have made the cooks come out and ask me, nicely, "lady, are you sure this is what you mean to order?"
Then they bring me whatever the experiment of the day is, and my family (and on occasion, the staff) waits for me to try the first bite. This usually ends in passing it around the table so that everyone can try a bite or sip. ends in laughter.
FYI. If something is called "Fire Bowl", they aren't kidding around.

While I don't get to try ethnic restaurants as often as I would like-I do have a little hobby, (err, habit-I blame my mother,) of trying something new each time I shop at a market.

Sometimes it's a strange candy from India. Sometimes it's an Eastern European beverage. Or it's a preserved and fermented bottle of unidentified vegetables that you're supposed to eat on rice. Of course, I won't know it's supposed to be eaten on rice until I go home, translate the label online and research it.
Once in a while, it's a tin can of Chinese radishes, intended for Hot and Sour soup, that spark when you put them in the microwave and you decide that you probably Shouldn't be eating them.

Oh, the adventure.

I've decided that each Friday shall be Friday Food Fair here on the Mayberry Home Journal. 

Each week I will post about whatever food adventure I've recently had. Yes, (much to the Mr's regret, although, often pleasure) this is at least a weekly thing. 

It might be a packaged food, it might be prepared.
It might be a beverage.
It might be a fruit. It might be vegetable.
It might be unidentifiable.
It might be healthy.

It might involve hot water and chemicals.
It might be something that everyone else has had and I've just missed out on because sometimes it seems I live under a rock these days.

Join me on Fridays for the newest adventure. And please feel free to share what food adventures you've had recently, either in the comments or on my facebook page.

P.S. My prayers have been answered, for there's a Tung Hing bakery in Hamilton now too. You should go pick yourself up a curry beef bun.

And some water.


  1. love this! this is the reason i love to travel! the curry beef buns sound like the bomb - enjoy one for me :)

  2. Love this... perhaps being childhood friends has had some influence in my adult life as my palette is more adventurous than it once was and I love coming downtown to shop at the market or try a new cuisine.... still haven't tried that octopus packed in clay you always raved about as a child... perhaps though... one day.

    1. Octopus packed in clay? Refresh my memory...because I don't actually remember that! Still an octopus fan though!

    2. I'm sure this was you that tried it. You said they packed it in clay and left it like that, it was like a marinating and aging process I think. I'm sure it was you who told me.