By Bella Zafer
Take a trip down Summer Avenue with Bella Zafer as she visits some of Memphis’ best international markets and does her part to make the world a more peaceful place - one bite at a time.
Imagine being able to travel to every continent in one day without ever leaving Memphis. This may sound impossible but, fortunately, Memphis is home to many international markets that allow for a simple and cheap way to get a quick glimpse, or rather, taste, of many different countries.
Lily Monroe (12), Diversity Club Co-President and frequent shopper at local international markets, says, “honestly, each market is a hidden gem within Memphis.” She encourages people to stray from their normal routine of going to the nearest Kroger, explaining that “international food markets are different because right when you walk in you just feel like you have, quite literally, the world at your fingertips. There are multitudes of different foods and items from all over [the world] right in front of you.”
I am personally an avid proponent of people learning more about different cultures in any way possible because my dad’s family immigrated from Afghanistan when he was eight years old. As a result, my parents have tried to expose me to Afghani culture in any small way they could. When I was about seven-years-old, my dad brought home a traditional dress from Afghanistan, which I enthusiastically wore around the house for guests. I have routinely heard my dad and grandpa speak Farsi, and I have eaten countless Afghani dinners. In order to cook these dishes, my mom, who is from Kansas City, Missouri, shops at some of these international markets. She specifically shops at Mediterranean Grocery, Inc. to buy spices and various ingredients.
My mom describes international markets by saying, “these places are where immigrants go to feel like [they are] home and we get to experience it, which is what makes this country great.”
An additional international market that is definitely worth checking out is the Great China Food Market (5137 Summer Ave.). Entering this market feels equivalent to what I can only imagine entering a shop in China feels like. The Chinese newspapers, décor, and news broadcasts on the television make the authenticity of this market impossible to ignore. I purchased one Chinese style hot dog bun (basically a big ‘pig-in-a-blanket’), a bag of Chinese pop rock candy, and a peach aloe drink for a grand total of $3.84, plus tax.
And, about half a mile down Summer Avenue from the Great China Food Market is the Jerusalem Market located at 4794 Summer Ave. My family occasionally goes to this market to purchase rice and lentils and to eat at the restaurant, Queen of Sheba, adjacent to the store. As a fan of the Mediterranean cuisine from the restaurant Casablanca, I was immediately attracted to this restaurant due to their advertisement of shawerama, hummus, falafel, and shish kabob. Next door in the market, one can purchase a bag of locally made pita for $2.49, two pieces of a Palestinian desert called Kullaj, similar to baklava, for less than $4.00, or a European Kinder chocolate bar for less than $2.00.
About a fifteen-minute drive from the Jerusalem Market is Mediterranean Grocery, Inc. located at 3561 Park Ave. A few notable items sold there include halal meats, Ahmad tea from London, and various juices such as apricot, peach, mango, guava, and banana. An exciting addition to this market is the adjoining restaurant that will be coming soon.
Sara Fraser (11), a fan of the Jerusalem Market, recommends the pita and hummus. In addition to praising the quality products sold here, Fraser adds, “You can tell everyone who works there has a deep connection with their food. They really care about how it’s made and really want to educate people about their culture and traditions.” The workers’ passion is indeed noticeable, and a distinct family vibe is apparent in this particular market. When perusing the aisles, for example, I heard the young female cashier shouting a question to her father who was working behind the meat counter across the store.
Given the busy lives of St. Mary’s students, I realize it is not realistic to expect everyone to make time to try out all of these amazing markets. Luckily, our own Diversity Club is putting on their annual International Dinner on November 10. Without leaving St. Mary’s, one can sample foods from a plethora of different origins made by St. Mary’s families. On behalf of the Diversity Club, Lily Monroe promises, “a henna station, tea station, photo booth, food, and friends” will all be present at the dinner.
Visiting a particular grocery store one time is not going to trigger world peace, but learning about different cultures in any way is a step in the right direction. If we take a little more time to learn about or even consider the way others live, I believe the world could one day be a more peaceful place; and what better way to do this than by trying delicious foods one market at a time?