Saturday, June 6, 2009

An Even Exchange

I recently purchased the new Gourmet Cookbook Club selection, Quick and Easy Korean Cooking by Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee, eager to expand my weeknight repertoire with some of the simple but unusual dishes in the book. As I flipped through the recipes, I noticed with dismay that nearly every one called for Korean chili paste or Korean chili powder.

Sag Harbor is not yet blessed with a Korean grocery store. But there is one on every corner in Fort Lee, New Jersey. This probably means nothing to you, but since my parents live in Fort Lee, to me it means that I could call my mother, give her a shopping list, and ask her to bring the chili paste and chili powder (along with some sweet potato noodles and dried anchovies since she was already going to the store) when she came out this weekend for my younger daughter’s dance recital.

Between the Korean markets, the giant Whole Foods store visible from the living room window of her apartment, and the Costco just a few minutes away that sells Norwegian smoked salmon for a price that Citarella’s hasn’t matched since 1980, it is hard to argue with my mother when she boasts that Fort Lee is a food shopper’s paradise. But I am equally proud of our town's imported specialties. What Sag Harbor lacks in Asian ingredients, giant bags of Pirate Booty, and cheap smoked fish it makes up for in a surprising category: High-quality black licorice. Who knows why every merchant in town carries a different variety of this candy? But my mother and I both have a weakness for the stuff. So I made the rounds, picking up examples at Sylvester & Company (Holland; 103 Main Street, 631-725-5012), Cavaniola’s (Austrialia; 89-B Division Street, 631-725-0095), and the IGA (Finland; Main Street, 725-0366), to give to her in return. Thanks, Mom!

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