A Sunday Spent Eating Outside, Shopping at an Asian Market

by Mallary Tenore Tarpley

Today I spent the afternoon with some friends who have a beautiful garden in their backyard. While making lunch — veggie burgers, fruit salad and crackers with hummus — we went out to the garden to get home-grown lettuce for our burgers, which we ate with fresh cilantro pesto. Yum.

As we munched on lunch outside, taking in the smells of the garden, I couldn’t help but admire what a cool backyard my friends have. The patio surrounding the garden is covered in brightly-colored flowers painted by a local artist who stops by the house from time to time to add to the artistic creation. Nearby, a hula hoop hangs on the branch of a tree.

Talking about gardening and fresh produce made us want to go to a nearby Asian market on 34th Street in St. Petersburg. (It’s actually called “The Oriental Market,” which seems politically incorrect.) It was fitting for us to go there, given that after lunch we had looked at about 150 photos my friend took during a recent trip to Beijing. We learned, from listening to the stories behind each photo, all about the Great Wall, the food, the people and the culture there.

A lot of the food at the market was similar to the food my friend had eaten in Beijing, but some of it she had never seen before. Understandably so. The store is filled with a wide variety of Asian produce, meat, sweets and more. It has two aisles full of cheap and elaborately decorated kitchenware, (I bought a spatula for $1.97); nearly three aisles of rice noodles (who knew there were that many different kinds of noodles?!); and freezer cases full of dumplings, edamame and more. There is also a ton of nail polish, which only costs $.50 a bottle — much cheaper than paying up to $7.50 per bottle at a drug store!

Naturally, I came away from the market with two bottles of pink and red nail polish, as well as a bag of edamame, a mango and a package of apple gummy — a chewy candy that’s similar in taste to Gummy Bears. The message on the candy’s packaging prompted me to buy it: “Every drop of fresh apple juice, carefully pressed from the reddest apples, shining in colors of the cheeks of a snow-country child, is yours to enjoy in each soft and juicy Kasugai Apple Gummy.” The color of the gummy does look like rosy cheeks, though not necessarily the rosy cheeks of a “snow-country child.”

I’m glad I bought the gummy and some Asian produce because I’m normally not very adventurous when it comes to trying new foods. When you’re with people who love to grow food and who are experimental with the way they prepare and eat it, though, it’s a lot easier to want to be adventurous yourself. Such was the case today.