Shopping with a Mission

Shopping with a Mission
Telling me what he does with those banana leaves!

Telling me what he does with those banana leaves!

I feel like I’ve done my job when the checkout person at the grocery store has to ask me what produce item is in the bag. But I really LOVE my job, when I ask for an exotic item at the grocery store, and it starts a whole conversation.

That happened today. I was shopping for my next cooking class-dinner party and looking for banana leaves. They have them now at Wegman’s in Princeton. Can you believe it? I knew I had recently seen them in the frozen foods, so I asked a gentleman working in that section if he knew where they were. Speaking in a gorgeous Jamaican patois, he told me they were “Waaaaaaayyyyyy over there” in the foreign foods freezer. I thanked him and went on my way when he stood up and called me back.

“What are you doing with them?” he asked.
“A Mayan dish, chicken cured in achiote seasoning then wrapped in banana leaves and grilled.” I said. “What do you do with them?”

“Ah,” he said with a dreamy look. “When I was a boy, my mother would make a pudding! She would take yams, potatoes, corn meal, and sugar. Then wrap them up in the banana leaves and put them in a pot. We didn’t have ovens, so she put the pot on the fire, with hot coals on top. It was sooooo good! I think I’m gonna go make some of that for my kids.”

I thanked him, took his picture, and told him he’d be the subject of my next blog post. Now I’m thinking seriously about doing a Jamaican menu…

It’s amazing how a love of good food makes friends out of strangers!  Has an interesting item in your cart (or someone else’s) started a great conversation at the store or farmers market? I’d love to hear about it.

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