The International Aisle


Have I ever told you about my love for the international aisle in grocery stores? It doesn't matter what grocery store it is or even what state it is in, I have a serious infatuation with the international aisle. I believe it stems from the fact that my mother made very basic, boring and plain meals for my entire childhood and I had no idea that the nifty ingredients in the international aisle even existed. I was also pretty ignorant of spices.

When I was a kid, our spice cabinet included the following items:
  • salt
  • pepper
  • garlic powder
  • oregano
  • parsley
  • bay leaves
  • paprika
  • cinnamon
  • meat tenderizer
  • onion powder
  • chicken and beef bouillon cubes
  • vanilla extract
  • powdered cocoa
  • baking soda
  • baking powder
No, seriously. That was all. I remember going to the grocery store with my dad and he picked up Salad Supreme and those Montreal seasonings. I had no idea what they were or what they could possibly taste like. My mom refused to use either of them for a while because they were new and different. Yeah...

When Tom and I got our first apartment, we went to Bed, Bath and Beyond and purchased a $40 spice rack under the influence of his mom and brother. They both had one so it was like a family spice rack. Honestly, I'm still not 100% sure of what to do with all of the spices in there. Fennel, corriander seeds, ginger (I dislike it), celery seed, marjoram, sage, etc.

But anway, enough about spices and back to the international aisle. The first time I realized just how cool that aisle was in Giant one day. It was at the end of the aisle with chicken stock and since that is a staple in my pantry, it was not surprising I was in that aisle. Something caught my eye and I started browsing. Fruit flavored soda, fish in tins, chipotles in adobo, green chilies, diced jalapenos, miso soup in a packet, nori, wasabi paste, soba noodles, the list could on and on.

I had an overwhelming desire to buy everything. Every marinade, paste, noodle, canned good and soda. I wanted them all. I have no idea what I would have done with most of them but that is just not the point. There were all of the new, exciting and fun things in the international aisle and I wanted to play with them!

Every day I thank the food gods for my experimental side that likes to try out new recipes and play with ingredients that I've never heard of and sometimes can't pronounce. And just because I don't think I've shocked you enough, I want to share with you the very basic, boring and plain foods that I spent my childhood eating.

Breakfasts: plain pancakes, french toast (no cinnamon), bacon, eggs, toast, cereal, bagels with plain cream cheese only, occasional donuts, and if we were really lucky - cinnamon raisin bread.
Breads - white sandwich bread only. Occasional potato rolls or hot dog rolls.
Vegetables - iceberg lettuce, carrots, tomato, onion, corn on the cob, canned green beans and corn, green pepper (but only for sloppy joes), celery
Fruits - strawberries, bananas, oranges, apples, and the oddball - kiwi
Cheese - American or provolone. Cheddar, ricotta, brie? Hell no, not in this house.
Meats - bacon, ham for Christmas and Easter, steak, chicken breasts, beef cubes, ground beef, pork chops
Starches - plain boil-in-the-bag white rice, baked potato, mashed potatoes, french fries
Seafood - steamed crabs and shrimp (hey we are from MD after all), and when I was 16, we introduced tilapia because I found out I liked it.

That's really it. No red pepper, jalapenos, mushrooms, scallops, risotto, blueberry pancakes, fish, raspberries, asparagus, spinach, nothing. No tacos, stir frys, casseroles, nothing. Lasagna was a rare occasion and only if my dad made it.

Pathetic, huh? Don't worry, I wonder how I survived and came to love scallops, mushrooms, spices, sushi, and just about everything else too.

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