Though we believe that India’s flag should display the phrase, “Land Of The World’s Greatest Food”, there were still times in Delhi when Jenny and I needed the tastes of home. This inevitable expat longing obviously extends to NRIs as well, which is why, in any American city with a reasonable Indian population, there are a handful of Indian grocery stores.
And in those stores: roasted channa! Frozen chapatis! Dried garam masala! NRIs (and India-obsessed Americans) rejoice!
And because we were always surprised to see which American brands had made the global trek to our local Delhi markets (Lays, yes; Cheetos, sadly, no), we feel that those of you reading these words in India might enjoy seeing what a Stateside grocery looks like.
That’s what it looks like. A generic storefront in a generic strip mall in a generic American suburb.
(Some advice: if you ever find yourself in an American suburb, seek out the older strip malls. These are the ones without Old Navy and Applebees and Office Depots. Look for poorly-designed parking lots and bad line-of-sight to the road. That’s because these strip malls are too unattractive to the chain stores that are choking American suburbs like cancer until every city is identical to every other city; which means these strip malls are the only suburban locations cheap enough for mom-and-pop restaurants and independent retailers like India’s Harvest to survive. These strip malls are the only places you’ll find anything unique in the American suburbs.)
(Also, for those readers who accused this blog of being too critical of India, hopefully this shows that we’ve got plenty to snark about America as well.)
So, India’s Harvest. India’s Harvest! Though it’s less than a block away from Bombay Bazaar, another Indian grocery, it’s distinguished by boasting a tiny restaurant in the back. So when Jenny and I and Little Georgiana pulled up in our Prius (yes, we’re that much of a stereotype), the first thing we did was order a meal, hoping that finally, finally, we’d find some Indian food here as good as what we’d eaten there.
(Up until now, we’ve been 0-for-about-a-dozen Indian meals. My god, do we miss Sagar Ratna!)
The second thing we did was ask permission to shoot. I explained to the owner that my friends back in the Motherland would enjoy seeing what a US-based Indian grocery looked like. He didn’t seem to care either way.
And here it what it looks like: aisles and aisles catering to homesickness and nostalgia!
Packaged meals, snack foods, sacks of rice, bags of lentils, and, of course, spice boxes: everything you need to recreate the tastes of home, all the way down to pre-baked puris for homemade golgappas.
Then we stopped taking photos. Our food had arrived.
What you see here is the thali we ordered. It was good. But what you don’t see here is the uttapam that arrived at the table too tardy for this picture.
It was the single best uttapam we’d had since we left India.
And so, our craving for India momentarily satisfied, we cruised the aisles looking for other joys.
And there — Haldirams!
And baby eggplant! And green mangoes! And… oh, karela. Well, we’ll skip that one, thank you.
Our shopping spree ended with a few bags of snacks, some frozen lotus root, bhel puri mix, and a bag of pre-cooked paneer cubes.
Oh, and this joyful sight we beheld near the checkout counter.
We didn’t buy any spice boxes this time. We probably have too many as it is.