The upper Midwest is not always the poster child for human diversity. My hometown has two pizzerias and an A&W. The nearest town has two Chinese restaurants, a locally owned Italian restaurant, a place that serves meat and potatoes and calls iceberg lettuce a vegetable, and the usual chains: Applebee’s, Logan’s Roadhouse, Ruby Tuesday’s. Fazoli’s, Qdoba and Taco Bell are considered ethnic dining.
I watch cooking shows. I used to subscribe to three different cooking magazines. I try new recipes every week. But when I walked into an Indian grocery tonight, I was instantly humbled. I did not recognize most of the spices. Some I recognized, but was not sure how they are used. The canned goods contained some familiar names, as did the boxed mixes. When I got to the flour aisle, however, I experienced a sense of living in a parallel universe. At home the diversity of the flour section comes largely from brand. There’s cake flour, white flour, all-purpose flour, and whole wheat. Before me in the Indian grocery stood bags and bags of flour with names I did not recognize–soya, moong, urud, millet, gram, chana, dosa, idli, handvo-dhokla. I recognized millet. That was it.
My pride in having ventured beyond the idaho potatoes and pan-fried or roasted meats of my German farmer ancestors dissipated. I am a food ingenue in need of the most elementary levels of education. I stand humbled. Again.