Friday, 19 November 2010

Stocking Up

In preparation for Thanksgiving, we went across town to Brighton Grove, an Asian shop in the west end of Newcastle, to buy cornmeal (polenta).  It's also the place where I stock up on beans, lentils, couscous, herbs, spices and soya flour.  It's the only place I've found cornmeal, soya flour and, for a long time, popcorn.  You find it in health food stores nowadays, but not always at great prices.

We bought so much we couldn't possibly carry any more:
5 kg cornmeal (medium polenta)
9 kg dried beans (haricot, broad, butter, kidney, chickpeas - AKA garbanzo - and cow peas - AKA black eyed peas)
2 kg soya flour  
1 kg couscous
50 g whole cloves (I'm going to try them in the pepper mill) 
large packets of ground nutmeg and cayenne pepper

It all came to a grand total of £33.06, less than the £40 I'd budgeted.

It's a funny, crowded shop with foreign writing on everything and some packages covered with dust from long storage.  There is a rough system of organisation, but looking up high one can see where extra stock as been stashed any old place.  We stood in a queue to pay for about 20 minutes, pushing our full baskets on the floor rather than break our backs carrying them.  I only saw one other white person in the shop, just as she was gathering her bags to leave.  I would love to have taken a survey to find out every one's nationalities.

The black lady in front of us only had a small bag of gram flour and she picked up a couple of bags of frozen okra as she passed that section.  She smiled at our baskets full of beans.  The shop owner is an elderly bearded man who wears a colorful woven taqiyah.  He and his son worked non-stop, picking up items, punching in numbers and making change.  You could practically see the money flowing through the place.  

Theirs is only one of several similar shops, probably the best known, that serve not only the Asian community in the west end, but the multi-national student and hospital employee populations.  I discovered Brighton Grove early on, when I lived across from the hospital for my first 10 months here in Britain.  One thing it took me a while to learn was not to go on a Friday after work; they aren't open.  After about the 3rd time, I finally remember.

As we left, Bill commented that we hadn't even gone near the first aisle, where the produce and the refrigerated foods are found.  I told him I didn't know what half the vegetables were or how to cook them, but I'm thinking we should go back sometime and explore, just for fun.

My price book needs updating, and in any case I haven't bought these items since last year, so my prices would be outdated.  I took it on faith - and I'm pretty sure it was safe - that the Asian shop could easily beat my local supermarket.    Just for fun - yes, I'm easily entertained - I'm going to start checking the prices, when I can find the same items.  

Are there specialist shops that you visit occasionally to find different foods and/or better prices?


Jg. for FatScribe said...

i enjoyed that ... great story. Thanksgiving abroad. wow.

Shelley said...

J - Pleased you liked it, in spite of the typos! When will I learn to proofread?