On 24th Street in San Francisco’s Noe Valley neighborhood, there are many small shops and restaurants catering to the area’s affluent clientele. There also used to be a Bell Markets grocery store on 24th.
Bell Markets was founded in the 1940s when Dominick Bell and his two brothers opened a supermarket in San Francisco. Alas, it is no more.
This was where, when I as newly arrived in San Francisco first discovered that it was not a breeze finding the foodstuff I was used to.
Ground beef, I thought, must be the same, right? Nope, here were packages of ground beef with various fat content displayed and I had no idea which one to pick for my homemade Swedish meatballs. If you say Muskot, with a Englishish pronounciation, sound like Muscat, sorta Muscrat without the c, it still does not make sense to the clerk, as it’s called Nutmeg on this side of the pond. And, surprisingly, Koriander is not a green herb with thin leaves, but the seeds yielding Cilantro.
After failing to get ground meat, nutmeg and cilantro I decided on a new tack, and went looking for shrimp. Cooked shrimp in its shell, fresh or frozen. The kind Swedes pour in a nice bowl and gather around on Friday evenings, along with a French Baguette and White Wine. You peel the shrimp while sipping the wine. When you have a nice pile, you butter a piece of bread, add the shrimp, a dollop of mayo or a squeeze of lemon, or both, then indulge with more wine. It’s a nice, slow process and gives your hands something to fiddle with while giving room for conversations to flow.
Had to ask the store manager where to find the shrimp. Described what I was looking for. “Do you have any shrimp like that?”
“No, ma’m, this is the country of convenience; all our shrimp is already peeled”.
I Noe Valley i San Francisco ligger en gata med många små affärer och en livsmedelsbutik som är inriktad mot de välbeställda invånarna i det populära området. Det var där jag som helt nyanländ först upptäckte att det inte var så lätt att hitta de matvaror jag var van vid hemifrån, i Sverige.
Köttfärs, världens enklaste tänkte jag, visade sig finnas i flera olika fetthalter. Muskot heter inte alls så, inte ens med engelskt uttal och koriander är inte en grön växt med tunna blad. Till slut måste jag fråga var jag kunde hitta räkor, alltså sådana man skalar till baguette och vitt vin en fredagkväll. Har ni sådana? undrade jag.
– No, ma’m, this is the country of convenience; all our shrimp is already peeled.
On Freeport Boulevard there is a popular Chinese restaurant, featuring a giant lunch buffet with a number of different ethnic foods. It’s an all-you-can-eat place still in business probably because it hasn’t been discovered by body builders, yet.
In front and center, there is the section with Chinese food; Spring Rolls, Dumplings, Bao Buns, Chow Mein, Lo Mein , Egg Foo Yong, Peking Duck, Sweet and Sour Pork, Kung Pao Chicken, Fried Rice, Wonton Soup, White Rice, Fried shrimp with cashew nuts, and Ma Po Tofu.
Along the right wall, as you enter the food display area of the restaurant, there are the containers and platters with your more typical American food like Mac’n Cheese, Burgers & Fries, Jello Pudding in various neon colors, Pancakes with maple flavored Syrup, Boston Clam Showder, Coleslaw, Pizza, Pasta Salad, Buffalo Wings, Meatloaf, Potato Salad, Meatballs, Baby back ribs, and Corn Dogs.
Immediately to the left is the Japanese section offering Sushi Nigiri and Maki Rolls with Salmon, Tuna Fish, Crab, Avocado, or Giant Shrimp. There’s Miso Soup, Chicken Teriyaki, Sashimi, Shrimp or Vegetable Tempura, Tonkatsu with a pile of Shredded Cabbage served with a bowl of Rice, and sides like Pickled Ginger, Seaweed Salad, Marinated Octopus Salad, Kimchi, and Wasabi.
Beyond and next to the Japanese section are the Mexican dishes laid out in a colorful display of Guacamole, Salsa, Tacos, Chimichanga, Enchiladas, Black Beans, Chile Rellenos, Gazpacho Soup, Refried Bean Dip, Quesadillas, Nachos, Tortilla Chips, Chili Con Carne and Burritos.
There are information signs posted on the wall of each section. In a beautiful kind of Chinese calligraphy writing, they spell out the kind of foods offered in each section of the buffet.
I was sweeping through the Mexican section, heaping it on as I had missed breakfast that day and was famished. On my way back to our table, as an afterthought, or actually without any thought at all, except looking forward to digging into my fully laden plate, I decided to scoop up another, generous serving of guacamole.
Finally seated at the table, and while chatting with my new colleagues during our lunch break from the office across town, I grabbed a tortilla chip, dipped it deep into the guacamole. More dip than chip in that mouthful.