Notes and Notices

On art, architecture and design


Pseudo Anthropology in the Grocery

Posted by Carren Jao Pineda |

We've all been to the grocery, but chances are that it was a Ralph's, Gelson's or Wegman's (side note: why is it always a possessive with these chains, except maybe Giant Eagle). I've always shopped in two markets growing up: the regular grocery and the Asian grocery. I never really thought about it until a few months ago, when I accompanied a few American friends inside Korean grocery Greenland Market.

When we walked in, I (and my other Asian companions) took on the role of impromptu tour guides. Most of the market was organized in the way a regular chain supermarket was. We had rows of fresh fruit and vegetables, but there was a flea market feel about it all. Fruits weren't all placed neatly in one pile, but kept in their cardboard boxes, piled one on top of the other. Hello Kitty was everywhere: on aprons, on packaging, in apparel and accessories. I had a wealth of options when it came to rice spoon sizes and soup spoons. I even found designed like a spork: one part for scooping soup and another part forked for scooping noodles. Perfect!

Wall of rice.
What can I say? Rice is a love affair. With it come its implements.
Soup spork.
The most exotic parts of the market are the foodstuffs. In the snack section, multicolored rice flour candies abound (some with a few typos). In the raw section, I found pork's feet, squished squid and fish with heads still very much intact. It was like a wet market, only with much cleaner surroundings. I found a whole wall of rice sacks and a lot of red bean. Red bean pastries. Red bean ice cream. Red bean in cans. It is safe to say we love our red bean. 

I snacked on these as a kid. Yummy without as much sugar, but way more salt I bet.

This could actually be really good for teaching kids spelling, though not as good for animal identification purposes.
Just one cookie with that cream. Typos in packaging somehow make me think they're more authentically Asian.
Not just makers of soy sauce, mind you. Wonder if this is any good?
I spent a good half hour or more wandering the shelves of Greenland, conducting my personal cultural research. It was a lot of fun. In college, I took up an anthropology class and I remember the teacher telling the class that not everything can be observed directly. Sometimes what people leave behind are as telling as the stories they pass on or the things they say. If so, there's a lot to learn in the humble market (not to mention kitchen). I think I'll try a Mexican grocery next time.

Here's a tour of another Korean grocery over at KCRW's Good Food. The narrator does a better job of explaining ingredients than I do:


Get updates via RSS