Ever so often, I wander into Kirkwood to shop at Global Foods Market. My list is never very long. Usually I’m looking for some unique spice or item for a recipe I want to try. I enjoy being in Kirkwood. It has that hometown feeling of Mayberry, USA, a place where you might see Opie or Aunt Bee walking down the street.
Last week I was in search of a Mideastern spice blend called Zaatar. It’s a multipurpose mixture like Emerald’s Essence or Paula Deen’s House Seasoning. Those who use it extensively make their own mix, which is easy since it has only four ingredients: wild thyme, sesame seeds, salt, and sumac. For me, it was cheaper to buy the spices already assembled them to get them separately.
By now you’re wondering why I needed Zaatar. After I got in the store, I asked myself the same question. I knew I needed it for some recipe that was in my “Try This” folder. Oh well…if I buy it now, I reasoned, I’ll have it when I come upon the recipe again. I put the jar in the cart.
I was also looking for bucatini, the pasta with the pin-size hole running through the noodles and besar flour. Besar is a chickpea flour used to make a tasty flatbread called Socca, that’s eaten primarily in Nice, France, and northern Italy, and India.
Going to Global Foods Market is always an adventure, though not as much so as shopping at Jay’s Asian Market, the eclectic grocery on Grand, that’s a lot like those I’ve been to in Asia. Global is a food gallery, a Magic Kingdom of world edibles. I go there when I have time to meander, read labels, and talk to my fellow shoppers. On my recent trip, I came upon an elderly gentleman perusing the flat bread. He was from Egypt and the bread, he said, was much like what he ate as a boy. Between his accent and my faulty hearing, it was a choppy conversation. Even so, I learned that the pocket bread is made locally at the Afghan Bread House, is very good, and that I should buy some.
We turned to discussing King Tutankhamen and the recent 3D scans that confirmed the many maladies and malformation of the boy king. He encouraged me to take a trip on the Nile someday and I assured him that I had every intention of doing so. After a few minutes more of pleasant conversation, we each dropped a packet of bread in our cart and moved on.
As I rounded the next aisle, I ran onto a middle-aged woman from Damascus, whose English was more challenging. “You know about Damascus and St. Paul?” she asked. Having taught Sunday school for decades, I assured her that I knew about the apostle’s connection to the ancient city in Syria. I told her I had been to Jerusalem and Bethlehem, but never to Damascus. She said I should go. I told her that I was temporarily into cooking, not travel.
When I began to look at the flour display with great confusion, she gave me a brief tutorial on a cracked wheat called bulgar. “Good with lentils. Good with tomatoes. Very high protein,” she said. When I told her I was looking for beshar flour, she seemed disappointed. (I have since run onto some bulgar dishes that looked appealing and wish I had questioned her further.)
I proceeded to the aisle flying the flag of India and immediately found what cooks in that country call beshar flour or powder. Now I could make Socca for dinner, a simple recipe of flour, water and olive oil.
Hmm…what next? The bucatini noodles. I searched the Italian aisle, but no luck.
When I asked a clerk, he said noodles weren’t in the Italian section; they were in aisle eight. I was stunned by that admission, but was certain that there was some rationale for it that he chose not to reveal. When I found no bucatini noodles in aisle eight, I gave up. Perhaps they were cleverly tucked away under some other flag. Maybe China; that’s where noodles originated. No matter. Not finding the dry noodles gave me an excuse to buy fresh-made bucatini at Pasteria in Clayton.
I glanced into my shopping cart. There weren’t enough items to cover the bottom, but I’d gotten most of what I came for, plus some delightful conversations.
One of the most difficult displays to pass are those with the candies from different countries. Candy wasn’t on my list. I headed toward the checkout counter. As I rolled along the German aisle, I couldn’t resist. I paused and tossed a small sack of hard candy into the cart, a sweet remembrance of a pleasant trip to Mayberry, International.