by Jessica Voigts
On a quest for global books? We’ve shared the One Place to Visit, wherever you travel – and now I’d like to share a cultural travel tip that lets you dig deep into different cultures – both here and abroad. It encompasses books, food, language, hobbies, and cultural artifacts. Take a delicious cultural odyssey that captures many facets of a culture – books and more. And, your cultural travel might not be too far from your own home.
The most delicious way to find new global books, foods, and other treasures? Head to an international grocery store in any big town. But what can you find there, besides tortillas and fish sauce? All kinds of treasures.
I tend to prefer Japanese grocery stores, since I’ve lived in Japan and often cook Japanese food. My three favorite Japanese grocery stores in the US (thus far):
I also love discovering small Mexican grocery stores (they abound in Michigan), and Indian markets (although I have to always ask for the least spicy grocery items!).
What will you find?
Incredible prepared food – often made on the premises, by members of that culture. From sushi to tortillas, your taste buds will go on a journey to other lands. You can discover new dishes, tastes, and find your favorites.
Groceries, which you can purchase to take home and snack or cook. Here’s a tip – ask the cashier for their favorite recipes, and how to make them. I’ve not only gained family favorites from this technique, but also new friends, who beam at me every time I come in, and share different recipes (and show me the ingredients to get) with every visit. I’ve learned recipes for delicious cactus salsa, the right way to make inarizushi, and discovered ingredients (especially vegetables) I never would have seen – or looked at twice.
Household and beauty items you didn’t know you couldn’t live without! From beautiful, useful serving dishes to a new kind of laundry soap; from a facewash you just love to the perfect calendar to hang in your office; from t shirts to footwear; your home will be graced with intercultural items, in daily use.
Movies and music – which can bring the sights, sounds, and language of different cultures home (I especially love Bollywood movies, and often rent them from a local Indian grocery).
Cultural artifacts, from Mexican wrestling masks, piñatas, or sculptures to Japanese Neko-chans, Korean art, Chinese vases.
And, best of all, you’ll find new reading material. At the least, you will find newspapers (which, in turn, will showcase local international events you may enjoy). Some grocery stores have separate bookstores (like Kinokuniya at Uwajimaya in Seattle, Mirai at One Market in Detroit, Sanseido at Mitsuwa in Chicago), where you can peruse books, magazines, and more in different languages – and in English. Head to the bilingual section, where you can find cookbooks, how-to books (Ikebana, anyone?), fiction, non-fiction, and even children’s books either in English or printed in both English and the target language. You might purchase cookbooks, nonfiction that teaches hobbies, translated manga, travel guides, photo books, and more.
Shop at International Markets and you’ll be experiencing a culture in new, holistic ways – through food, cooking, music, movies, and reading – in small ways, not too far from home. Pretty soon, you’ll be planning an international trip to experience your favorites on location!
What’s your favorite international grocery store? What do you love buying there?