Boy meets girl, boy gets job in a faraway land and next thing you know we are having romantic strolls through exotic supermarkets. If someone had told me some years back that I’d be living outside of the U.S., no less alluring and sultry Dubai, I’d say: Nah, you got the wrong person.
The funny thing is that most people here and back in the Mainland U.S. think that where I’m from (the U.S. Virgin Islands) is exotic. Go figure! Those of us from the islands often take our beautiful surroundings for granted. It takes someone saying something to the tune of “OMG…you’re from the Virgin Islands…how lucky you are…it must be so beautiful”. Yes, it is, but we are not on permanent vacation there so often time tourists get to enjoy it more than we do.
Let me get back to grocery shopping in Dubai. Sans supermarkets my life would be meaningless here. I mean, this is literally what I look forward to most each week. No lie! You see, both my other half and I are lovers of the kitchen and share the joys of the culinary arts. We have no formal training — all self-taught through natural curiosity and the wonders of the Internet and television mediums.
So once a week, we venture out to our weekly grocery scavenger hunt. Armed with our target list, we never know what we’re going to return home with. We’ve learned where the best places are to get this and that, where to save a penny, and where to stay away from. Spinney’s is great for some things, such as American and British products, while Lulu is great for finding more of the “exotic” products like Nigella seeds, dried stingray, and all sorts of strange fruit.
We wade through the aisles taking our sweet time, stopping often to bring products up close to our face and try to solve the mystery of their origin and use. Every so often we have an aha moment when we finally figure out what the product would be great with. Like a ginger grinder (great to use in coffee, over ice-cream or on chocolate cake), a million types of Indian chutneys and condiments, fresh Saudi feta cheese, wonderful fruit and flower cordials to experiment with in sangrias or spritzers, eccentric cuts of meat and many types of fish from this side of the world, molokia, and glorious breads of every nationality.
And every once in a while our eyes do meet in a dreamy bliss. Ain’t this the most fun, honey? Yes, foraging for groceries in a foreign land can, in fact, be very romantic. 🙂 Discovering new food items means new possibilities and new possibilities always makes the heart content.
The funny part is that when we do look for American products, they are usually in a special section. It seems like for some here, American products are exotic. The irony in that! As a Caribbean-American, there are some products that we do miss dearly and everyone once in a while we are lucky enough to find some. Delighted we were to find “browning” the other day at the Lulu near Emirates Mall. It’s what my husband uses to brown his meats. It’s actually better to make your own, which is just caramelized sugar, but every Caribbean cook likes to have some of that handy in their pantry.
Rare as hen’s teeth are decent plantains. I often complain how they just don’t taste the same as back home. I guess nothing makes a plantain sweeter than the ones kissed by the warmth of our Caribbean sun, nourishing rain, and tropical trade winds. And then there is my never-ending quest for recao (see my other blog post on this dilemma!). The one thing we sure are glad to find here is some really wonderful red snapper and king fish. In the Caribbean, we make something called Fish Escovich (Jamaica) or Pescado en Escabeche (Puerto Rico). Pretty much the same thing, but with a different twist. Both red snapper or king fish are perfect for this dish and it pairs with some boiled cassava in garlic and onions. You can easily Google recipes for this, but I would be glad to walk you through it.
So, grocery shopping here is no boring, mundane chore. I wonder if I’m the only one who blushes when we spot the infamous pork section labeled “Non-Muslims Only”. I always feel like a bad girl going in what I call the porn section of the supermarket. For us it’s one of the most fun, sexy, and swagalicous diversions. Yes, you heard me right! Supermarkets are the new swag – carry on!