The Grocery Ninja leaves no aisle unexplored, no jar unopened, no produce untasted. Creep along with her below, and read her past market missions here.
"Okay, show me the funky stuff!" I command, only to have him retort "I grew up with this stuff, remember? It's all normal to me."
Teething problems. But I zoom in on the foodstuffs I had puzzled over on previous trips that had so tantalized yet evaded me in my inability to read the language.
"What's this?" I ask, holding up a promising-looking packet with a tableau of an ancient, magical forest.
"Erm… ketchup," he says, amused.
I skip around, randomly thrusting food in his faceI am on a mission! Meanwhile, there are at least two other groups in the store, similarly armed with "translators." (This, by the by, is why I love living in a college townthe mass of multilingual international students who act as unofficial culinary ambassadors.)
My friends think I'm dotty, but the idealistic part of me believes such exchanges go that little bit toward world peace. Nowhere else than in the kitchen do we share more similarities than differences. And how do you stay angry at someone who has the same deep reverence you do for sautéed eggplant? Yes, I know it's simplistic. But how many of us have made friends we never would have crossed paths with but for our love and curiosity of food and their peopled narratives?
So this week's grocery item (as my friend had to inform me) is kissel. A traditional Russian beverage, it's also served as dessert and is sometimes described as a fruit soup. Homemade, it would start out with juice or a fruit purée that is then thickened with potato starch to an unset Jello-like consistency.
Oh, and the title of this post? My friend tells me it's a constant refrain in Russian children's folktales, akin to our familiar "Once upon a time ... and they lived happily ever after." In that carefree world, paradise is a place where "rivers of milk run through kissel flats." Personally, I'd prefer fresh watermelon juice and soymilk, but kissel flats wouldn't be half bad.
All products linked here have been independently selected by our editors. We may earn a commission on purchases, as described in our affiliate policy.