How to Take A Delicious Cultural Odyssey, Close to Home

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture
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On a quest for more global goodness in your life? We’ve shared the One Place to Visit, wherever you travel–and now I’d like to share a cultural travel tip that lets you dig deep into different cultures, both here and abroad. It encompasses books, food, language, hobbies, and cultural artifacts. Take a delicious cultural odyssey that captures many facets of a culture. And, your cultural travel might not be too far from your own home.

The most delicious way to find new global books, foods, and other treasures? Head to an international grocery store in any larger city. But what can you find there, besides tortillas and fish sauce? All kinds of treasures.

How to Take A Delicious Cultural Odyssey, Close to Home

I tend to prefer Japanese grocery stores, since I’ve lived in Japan and often cook Japanese food. Kalamazoo's Pacific Rim (our local shop!) offers a variety of Asian groceries (and an on-site cafe!).

My three favorite Japanese grocery stores in the US (thus far):

Uwajimaya, Seattle. From How to Take A Delicious Cultural Odyssey, Close to Home
Uwajimaya, Seattle

One World Market, Novi, MI. From How to Take A Delicious Cultural Odyssey, Close to HomeOne World Market, Novi, MI

Mitsuwa, Chicago. From How to Take A Delicious Cultural Odyssey, Close to Home
Mitsuwa, Chicago

I also love discovering small Mexican grocery stores (they abound in Michigan), and Indian markets (although I have to always ask for the least spicy grocery items!).

Su Casa mural, Fenville, Michigan (now located in South Haven, MI). From How to Take A Delicious Cultural Odyssey, Close to Home
Su Casa mural, Fenville, Michigan (now located in South Haven, MI).

What will you find?

Sushi, Mitsuwa, Chicago. From How to Take A Delicious Cultural Odyssey, Close to Home
Sushi at Mitsuwa, Chicago

Incredible prepared food–often made on the premises, by members of that culture. From sushi to tortillas, your taste buds will go on a journey to other lands. You can discover new dishes, tastes, and find your favorites.

Groceries, which you can purchase to take home and snack or cook. Here’s a tip – ask the cashier for their favorite recipes, and how to make them. I’ve not only gained family favorites from this technique, but also new friends, who beam at me every time I come in, and share different recipes (and show me the ingredients to get) with every visit. I’ve learned recipes for delicious cactus salsa, the right way to make inarizushi, and discovered ingredients (especially vegetables) I never would have seen – or looked at twice.

Household and beauty items you didn’t know you couldn’t live without! From beautiful, useful serving dishes to a new kind of laundry soap; from a facewash you just love to the perfect calendar to hang in your office; from t-shirts to footwear; your home will be graced with intercultural items, in daily use.

Movies and music, which can bring the sights, sounds, and language of different cultures home (I especially love Bollywood movies, and often rent them from a local Indian grocery).

Cultural artifacts, from Mexican wrestling masks, piñatas, or sculptures to Japanese Neko-chans, Korean art, Chinese vases, Turkish tea sets.

Cookbooks and more at Mitsuwa, Chicago. From How to Take A Delicious Cultural Odyssey, Close to Home
Cookbooks and more at Mitsuwa, Chicago

And, best of all, you’ll find new reading material. At the least, you will find newspapers (which, in turn, will showcase local international events you may enjoy). Some grocery stores have separate bookstores (like Kinokuniya at Uwajimaya in Seattle, Mirai at One Market in the Detroit area, Sanseido at Mitsuwa in Chicago), where you can peruse books, magazines, and more in different languages–and in English. Head to the bilingual section, where you can find cookbooks, how-to books (Ikebana, anyone?), fiction, non-fiction, and even children’s books either in English or printed in both English and the target language. You might purchase cookbooks, nonfiction that teaches hobbies, translated manga, travel guides, photo books, and more.

Shop at International Markets and you’ll be experiencing a culture in new, holistic ways–through food, cooking, music, movies, and reading–in small ways, not too far from home. You might discover cooking classes, or international events. Pretty soon, you’ll be planning an international trip to experience your favorites on location!

What’s your favorite international grocery store? What do you love buying there?

 

This article was originally published at A Traveler's Library, which has now closed.

 

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