Kimchi in aisle two!

by Jen Chau
kimchiGood news for you “ethnic” foodies out there! Looks like our tastebuds are changing enough that ethnic grocery stores are being noticed more and more…big supermarkets are even carrying more ethnic foods in order to satisfy our cravings for Chinese, Mexican, Indian, Korean and Cuban cuisine.

Mealmakers across the country are discovering small ethnic grocers that once primarily served immigrant communities. Even in overwhelmingly white regions like Albany, culinary adventurers like DeFrancesco troll the aisles of stores like Lee’s, stocking up on whatever unusual sauces, candies and snacks strike their fancies. Tracking the growth of these grocers is difficult; most of them are scattered wherever immigrant populations appear and want foods familiar to their heritages, says Michael Sansolo, spokesman for the Food Marketing Institute in Washington.

But the growth hasn’t gone unnoticed. Major supermarket chains are dedicating more space to ethnic foods, Sansolo says. It’s an attempt to draw shoppers who may otherwise head for these specialty markets.

Demographically, it makes sense. Hispanics and Asians now represent about 18 percent of the U.S. population, and account for more than half of the nation’s population growth since the start of the decade, according to the Census Bureau.

Basically, at this point, we still see that anything aside from apple pie and hot dogs is relegated to “ethnic food” aisles. It would be nice to see a bit more integration at the grocery store ;), but perhaps it will take a while since clearly, the way that we discuss ethnic cuisine sets it apart. Certain ingredients are easily labeled “unusual,” with only “culinary adventurers” as takers (Are they really that unusual? Perhaps people who find themselves closed to trying food “not their own” are the unusual elements here?? :)).

Ok, perhaps this is a small (even petty) thing to be analyzing, but I do think that this speaks to how Americans tend to be so confined in our thinking. So, if you are X ethnicity you are only meant to eat X food? And if you stray from that, then WHOA! You sure are adventurous!? I think I probably just take for granted that I live in a very diverse neighborhood where you can’t help but get familiar with a variety of cuisines….but I do recognize this is not the norm for others. Anyone want to head over to Stop and Shop, get some spicy daal, cilantro, dumplings, and have a wild and adventurous night? ;)