I’m writing to spread the joy I felt several weeks ago upon entering my college town’s newly expanded Kroger. Although I had gone in before, it wasn’t until a few days ago that I decided to explore around and discover all of the new food items available. Usually I only allow myself an hour in Kroger because if I don’t set a time limit I’ll walk around forever, but this time I let the wanderlust I feel for grocery stores inspire a little more exploration. Even though I try to support non-chain food consumption such as buying from our farmer’s market, I can’t deny the inevitable happiness that comes from being able to buy ingredients used halfway around the world.
What I will ever do with tamarind pods I have no idea as I’m not skilled with South Asian cooking (or any kind of cooking for that matter-hah), but I can tell you that seeing them whole, hanging in cellophane near the produce (as opposed to the occasion powder in the spice section) got me really excited. Same goes for the cactus that was sitting next to the peppers and cucumbers. I don’t have a clue how to use cactus in any kind of digestible way but seeing the spiky green-ness available for consumption rather than decoration certainly does open up a lot of doors. I’ve never tried either but I plan on it, hoping of course that they’ll taste somewhat fresh and not so well traveled (what does a fresh cactus taste like?).
I also found Greek yogurt which isn’t really any kind of special thing, (although I guess neither are tamarind pods or cactus to those who use them regularly), but this was particularly exciting because last year when I made my first attempt at Tandoori chicken without Greek yogurt, using regular instead, it was a big flop. And just to add to the Greek yogurt excitement, it has 16 grams of protein in less than a cup of the vanilla flavor (and no fat), as opposed to about 8 grams of protein for a cup of regular vanilla yogurt. I’m not typically one to count calories and be super health conscience but I have to admit, that’s impressive. Those are going to become a staple item after workouts for sure…once I start working out regularly that is *bashful face*.
Sort of going along with the tamarind pods, there was also lemon grass available, another Asian staple that I don’t know how to use. The other day I decided to branch out from my usual Chinese American food (vegetable stir fry rice and egg rolls) and get some kind of soup on the menu that had no little peppers next to it indicating spiciness. I can only imagine what the soup with three chili peppers next to it would do to me since even eating the kind with none left multiple beads of sweat on my upper lip about half way through. I’m such a spice wimp. Anyways, the soup’s ingredients had two things I remember; coconut milk which kept separating from the soup and settling on the top, creating a swirly cloud of sweetness, and lemon grass, a flavor I cannot recognize on its own yet. The Vietnamese woman who did my nails a few weeks ago told me lemon grass was used in just about every dish she can remember eating from home so at some point I’d like to buy a few stalks and see what happens in the pot I throw them in. My cart at Kroger will always have grapefruit, hotdogs, onions and orange juice in it but it’s definitely a fun surprise to carry home a new something for a new flavor. Even if it ends up in disaster at least the apartment will smell like cooking, right?