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Why chai at six? Because growing up, my family and I would have chai every evening. Those moments of my youth are among my most favorite memories.

Who am I? A twentysomething working fulltime in Knoxville, Tenn.

Please note that all thoughts and comments described in this blog are purely my own and do not reflect the thoughts or attitudes of the company I work for.

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    chai at six
    Small grocery stores are gems to a community. Despite the convenience of a larger grocery store that stocks every brand you need, the smaller stores are more specialized, human and just offer something more. I saw this four times today visiting four food stores near my neighborhood.

    My trips to the stores happened by chance. I wanted to visit a furniture store, but it had closed by the time I got there so I looked around and saw a Middle Eastern store. I wondered what it would be like inside.

    It was like the stores back in Z. A little dark, bad fluorescent lighting, sunlight streaming in through the windows. Cans and boxes and packets of food lined the shelves. The products were mostly Arabic/Middle Eastern. Grape leaves, stuffed peppers, fig jams etc. I think it was my first time in a Middle Eastern-exclusive store. Interestingly, I found some Indian "Chirag" brand products sitting among the pastes and stuffed peppers.

    I also saw some items I hardly see in stores here: Marie biscuits, coffee found outside of America, Nutella and Bounty chocolate among other things that fail my memory now. It felt super cool to discover this little nook in my neighborhood.

    So I bought me some garlic/ginger paste of the "Chirag" brand, a chocolate bar, cheese made of sheep's milk and the item I had been craving for a while — the chocolate lover's passion, Nutella.

    The next stop was at a Southern, red neck-type food store, where I saw a lady who had something like a tumor in her cheek/jaw. A Pakistani food store owned by a man called Shaheed was my next stop. The store reminded me of the typical Indian store with packets of papad and chevdo. I got a packaged Mirch Masala (they're good!) meal and spent a couple of minutes talking with him about life here. We agreed — money becomes your family in America. Back home, you were tight with family, but here, you lose that and become alone and an individual.

    The final international stop on my journey of international groceries was at an Asian store, I think owned by Japanese people. This store was jam packed with cutlery, noodles, and lots of other things I don't know. I like a lot of their chinaware, but found the prices too expensive. I got to get me to a Chinatown where I'll be sure to find peachy/red glassware at a deal rate. I also saw frozen anchovies, which reminded me a lot of kapenta. Maybe they are the same thing.

    What was the coolest thing though was seeing four different cultures all in a mile. Is this Knoxville for real?

    When I got home, I carted my culinary delights into my kitchen and immediately took out one jar. I twisted off the lid and tore off the wrapping covering its freshness. I dug a knife in the jar, gingerly scooped up some chocolate and spread it thickly on my slice of bread. Then I took one sniff, then a bite and gorged on the delicious taste of Nutella.

    As I look back now, it's kind of silly that I go to four culturally unique stores but in the end, devour upon spreadable chocolate on bread.

    Posted by Jigsha at 6/10/2003 10:05:00 PM | link to entry |