A Good Sunday - A nice snowfall last night preceded by two hours of steady sleet left Kansas City with a solid base of ice, hiding ominously under the snow. Any spots where the plows didn’t reach presented morning drivers with a tricky challenge to be sure. So, after putting it off for two weeks, I figured it was time to finally stop into the Home Depot to grab a couple of sand bags for the Vibe's backside.
After lifting the two 60 lb. tube bags into the hatchback trunk, I headed downtown to the River Market, needing some fruit - lemons and limes, in particular. Okay, call me stingy but I simply refuse to pay .89 for a friggin' lemon. I don't know, maybe it's all those years working in the tomato and produce business; I suppose, I know too much. So, the River Market it was.
Seriously, I love this place. It’s not exactly Faniuel Hall/Quincy Market, where I worked for four years while a BU undergrad and then some time afterwards. But it’s a good reminder and, for now, that's enough for me. Something about marketplaces excites me, makes me feel good. People food shopping, selling their goods, produce, jams, pies, flowers, nicknack's. Just being in the bracing air gets the blood pumping and brings a wide smile to my face.
Sure enough, 5 lemons or limes for a buck, can’t beat it. Corollo’s Italian Deli sells produce so that's where I made my purchase, chatting for a bit with, Mike, one of the owners. I’d been in his store a few times before to get fresh Parmesan and pasta and it’s yet another reminder of home. The fresh bread, Italian meats displayed in the glass counter, cheeses, olives in the barrels; all kinds of olives oils and vinegars, coffees, sauces. I was pretty hungry (so, what's new?), but it was way too early for that kind of thing. (That's the almost 50 in me talking there). And besides, I’m in the midst of a campaign to clean up the diet so … much of that stuff is on hold for the moment. I do, however, see a fresh Italian hero treat in my future. And Corrolo’s is the place for that. I’ll be back. And the next time, it won't be for lemons.
Home, Consolidated - "Chinatown Food Market" - I’d seen the sign on the large brick building every time I’d been in the market area, but never went in. There always seemed to be a reason to take the other turn. This morning? Fresh snow, clean air, my morning task completed ... it was time to check it out.
As soon as I walked in, things felt familiar. But not in the frantic way I remember it. You see, having lived in NYC for so many years, I'd often made my way down to Chinatown and was always stimulated by the visit. A subway ride downtown often left me feeling as though I'd taken a trip to another country. Seriously, for any of you who have been there, doesn't it feel that way? It's as though you've left the U.S. for a while to do some shopping. Sure, the heat's oppressive in July and the mass of people, the chaotic zig zagging of cars, bicycles, trucks. The noise, horns, engines rumbling, choking the street with fumes. You name the sense, it gets pummeled when you step into NYC’s Chinatown. And my hunch is it’s that way in any urban Chinatown. I always had mixed feelings when I trekked down there, extreme feelings; the "love-hate" thing again. Loved the food, (roast pork buns, in particular) smells, array of goods - the variety of people. Hated the noise, chaos - the mass of people.
Enter, Kansas City’s Chinatown Food Market. It’s as though someone drew a square box around NYC’s version, pushed in from each of the sides and then down and up from the top and bottom, cropping and shrinking the box so it would then fit into this one little (not so little, by the way) store in the Midwest marketplace. No chaos. No blaring horns. No car fumes. Just … good stuff. And lots of it.
Fruits, vegetables, many of them strange looking to me; canned and bottled goods of all kinds, sauces, marinades, oils, vinegars, noodles … I had no idea what many of the products were, by the way and certainly wouldn't know what to do with most of them if I bought them. So many strange names and images. One thing is certain - I really want to learn how to cook Asian style. With my kitchen here - finally, I have a chance to stretch my cooking wings - (i.e., I have a place to prep veggies, unlike the West 87th Street place where I had to balance a cutting board on the couch arm to prepare a meal) – so I figure it’s time to make the move; to experiment a little and to do it in a more healthy way. To do that, however, I figure it’s time to get a book to explain not only recipes, but directions in terms of what to buy and how to prepare it. As I browsed through the market, I found myself getting excited at the prospect of cooking great stuff and then inviting friends over for dinner to show it off. After a few practice rounds, no doubt.
Yes. Yes, I Miss The Ocean – I know, this isn't the same, but … I think I stumbled on the place to buy fresh fish in this town. And ... now I’m not sure ... but I think some of the fish I saw in the back may have still been moving. That's a good sign, right? I mean, not for the poor fish, but ...
It was ten on a Sunday morning and the place was pretty busy for a store that had just opened its doors. The first cars that drove up, it was as though all those people made a beeline to the back area where the fresh fish is sold. I snapped a few shots here where you can see customers ordering, the workers in the back gutting, slicing and preparing the orders to people’s specifications. It looked great and reminded me a lot of Haymarket in Boston and, of course, the old Fulton Fish Market in the city. There is nothing, I mean nothing like that smell. You either love or hate it.
On my way out, I met a nice young man at the register named Frank. Thin, glasses, broad smile - we started talking and, after I told him it was my first time there and how much I loved the place, he asked where I was from? It turns out Frank just returned to Kansas City from the West Coast, having spent time in school in LA. I ended up telling him about the book and, as always, figured I'd take a shot at an interview pitch. I mean, you never know, right? Getting Asian Eldercation participants has been a challenge right from the get-go because of the language issue. Frank said he may know a couple of people here so ... we’ll see.
I handed him a card.
Another seed planted; another morning adventure complete.