Happiness comes in many flavors (and it only costs €20)

July 5, 2010 § Leave a comment

The other day, one of my friends came to me in distress because her host family had asked her to cook them an authentic Macanese meal.

This in itself didn’t trouble her — in fact, she wanted dearly to oblige them. We all look for chances to share our home cultures with our adoptive families — a small return for the way they have so munificently shared theirs with us.

The trouble was that there were no authentic Macanese ingredients to be found at Aldi.

I’m learning a lot about the things I associate with life in the US. Feeling sad a few days ago and longing for a bit of home, I ambled over to Am Stern and stepped inside a Turkish market. Suddenly there were mounds of apricots and almonds and tall glass bottles of pomegranate molasses.

It reminded me so much of being a little girl in San Diego, of weekend shopping trips to nondescript storefronts that emitted overwhelming odoriferous clouds of Indian spices with every swing of the door. It reminded me of discovering Boston’s Haymarket as young teen, the neverending fruit stalls that spilled down steep staircases into tiny, crowded Middle Eastern grocery stores. I bought off homesickness with a ring of dates and a box of rose-flavored Turkish delight.

It didn’t matter that it wasn’t jasmine rice and Silver Swan soy sauce, the stuff of growing up Filipino-American. The unfamiliarity was itself familiar. I ate my rose-flavored candy and felt comforted because it was something from somewhere else.

Turkish delight and dolma were not going to help my friend, though. What was she to do? Saying no was not an option, but she didn’t want to use the wrong ingredients and feed them something she thought a travesty.

We decided to test the assumption that a city with Chinese restaurants (Kassel has 5) must also have a place to buy Chinese ingredients. It took me half an hour on Google (translating is clumsy and slow-going) to find a little Asiamarkt not half a mile away from campus!

So off we trotted, feeling warm hope in our souls, and after fifteen minutes and a few wrong turns, we found it hiding behind a bustop. It was humble and small but crammed with necessities — we found soy sauce and chili paste, rice noodles and sinigang, dried mangoes and ChocNut,  long beans and rice and bok choy. We traded 20 Euros apiece for our basketfuls of soul-rations.

With the gentle German summer sun high in the sky and cracker nuts for the walk back, I was so contented. My friend could make her authentic dinner and I had coco jam to give my host mother as pasalubong.

Munching on my peanuts, I was a stranger to homesickness. Adobo is such a happy flavor — I can stay here forever.

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