Monday, April 5, 2010
One of my favourite activities is food shopping. No, I don’t mean going to the grocery stores (although that’s pretty fun too), I’m talking about food stores, specialty or ethnic stores, the little ones that are filled with exotic and foreign items. You can’t keep me away from them or get me out of them. I once spent two hours at Grant’s Asian Grocery Store at Bloor and Dixie.
These stores are where I find inspiration not just for cooking but for writing as well. Like a school trip, it’s where I learn. I read labels like stories and peruse aisles like a detective. Yes I know I am a food nerd but if you want to know where to get ancho chilies, papadums or tosino, I’ve got you covered.
Eating outside the box is just as important to me as eating within it i.e. for sustenance. Food should be fun and unpredictable. I realize some of my antics (brains, tongues, sweetbreads, eyeballs) are a bit much for some and downright Fear Factoresque for others and I’m trying to forgive you for that but that doesn’t mean that you can’t experiment in other ways. Try a new cheese even though it smells like dirty socks or an unusual vegetable that you have no idea how to cook, even something as safe as a strange bread. Trust me, if it’s sold it’s because somewhere, somehow, people are eating it.
You think I am the first person to eat a beef heart?
Offal aside, just take a little trip to an ethnic supermarket and you will be amazed by all the different colours and fragrances. You will even save a dollar or two as the “ethnic” aisle of the big box stores are charging you way more than the product’s value. Even worse are specialty stores like McEwan’s or The Cheese Boutique. Wanna laugh? McEwan sells sriracha, the one with the rooster on it with the green cap, for something outrageous like $5. You can get it for $2.49 in Chinatown. Here’s a tip: if you are looking for an ethnic ingredient, go to the neighbourhood where that culture resides. Get kielbasa on Roncesvalles, kefalotiri on the Danforth, kimchi in Koreatown, curry in Indiatown, you get the picture. It’s the beauty of living in Toronto; a beauty that should be taken advantage of.
Example: Kensington market is like a playground for food shopping. Augusta Avenue is home to Perola's, a latin grocery store where I picked up some corn tortillas, different salsas and some chipotles for an attempt at making heuvos rancheros.