Two summers ago, after a year of freshman comp teaching and a life-changing decision to move across the country, I developed an anxiety-related skin condition. I’d suffered from stress-induced breakouts before, and I knew getting rid of this one would call for daily exercise, lots of vegetables, and diligent water drinking. Instead of doing any of that, I went to a dermatologist, got a prescription for an antibiotic, and took it every day for two months. As it turns out, this was not such a good idea.
I didn’t know it at the time, but even as the Doxycycline was clearing up my breakout, it was killing off the good bacteria in my intestines that helped me break down and process food properly. One night after taking my dose, I found myself hunched over the toilet in my apartment, vomiting up my dinner whole. A few days later, I had to swing across three lanes of Los Angeles rush our traffic to throw up by a tree in a Ralph’s parking lot.
I’d started the pills in June of 2011 and I took them every day until the end of July. By September, something as little as a sip of water left me feeling like the monster from Alien was about to birth itself through my belly button. Garlic fries at dinner meant a night on my knees on the bathroom floor. The prospect of the holidays, which I usually spent with my boyfriend’s family outside Boston, became suddenly horrifying. Things went on more or less like this for over a year.
I don’t make resolutions, but I do want to have more dinner parties/opportunities to cook for other people this year. There are a lot of great food blogs out there, but they don’t always include video, which is why I really like Food Wishes, which has everything from making deviled eggs to fancy French stuff. Those crab stuffed corn muffins are going to show up at a Super Bowl party very soon.
I’m here to convince you to shop at your local ethnic grocery stores.
I live in Philadelphia. The map above of where people of different ethnicities live in Philadelphia has red dots for whites, blue dots for blacks, and yellow dots for Hispanics. In the middle of the map, there’s a place in North Philadelphia where the north-south swath of Hispanic neighborhoods tapers down to a point and mixes with the black and white neighborhoods to the west and east. And right there, there’s a locally-owned grocery store called Cousin’s. Not surprisingly, it’s a fantastic place to shop for food.
It’s made even better by the fact that there’s a fairly strong Muslim community in North Philadelphia. So: Take a full service American supermarket, add two big aisles of Mexican/Spanish produce, meats and groceries (including all manner of hot peppers, salsas, queso fresco, chorizos, octopus, salt cod, all of those different kinds of beans and cornmeal, etc.), and then add a halal meat counter, Lebanese yogurt, and a whole aisle of Middle Eastern specialties (halva, tahini, sardines in spicy oil, etc.). It’s a dream to shop there. The prices are rock bottom, the selection is amazing, and the food quality is equal to or higher than any other major, regular-priced supermarket I’ve tried.
It’s become my favorite place to grocery shop, but I’ve had a tough time convincing any of my friends to give it a shot.
Dana Goodyear’s New Yorker piece on underground supper clubs is great fun, even if you, like me, thought supper clubs were just a thing cool people did in LA and San Francisco and Brooklyn, like, five years ago. They are not! They are alive! They are THRIVING. They are a thing cool people do in LA and San Francisco and Brooklyn NOW.
They cost $90 a person, give or take, cash, placed in “a desiccated crocodile head that sits in the middle of the table.” They are not a place to get rich, if you’re the one doing the cooking, but they are a place to break even.