Dear Ethnic Supermarkets,
I miss you. College has been a culture shock, especially going to a school where your delicious goods are miles away. I close my eyes and think about the smell of raw fish permeating my nose, the sound of a familiar language yelling out orders, and the sight of "Imported from…" on vacuum-sealed packages. There may have been times I rejected my family's culture back home, but now that I'm in college, I definitely understand and appreciate it so much more. Away with boiled vegetables and rosemary-herbed chicken, they serve in dining halls! I miss chicken stew with vegetables I cannot pronounce, I miss soup with powdered broth I cannot find at the local chain grocer, and I miss juices hailing from our native land. College is difficult and all I want is some home-cooking.
In schools like mine, surrounded by affluent neighbors, you are far and in-between. You're more than twenty miles away, and on top of that, I don't have a car (because that's an added expense that I, a struggling college student, cannot reasonably afford). Ordering an Uber to you? I'm going to spend so much in your fluorescent aisles, I cannot bear to hurt my wallet with a $20 ride.
I must settle with nearby grocery chains that never have exactly what I need.
I am stuck googling alternatives for vegetables, knowing full well that spinach isn't the best substitute for a dish I want to meal-prep. But what can I do? The ethnic "Asian" or "Hispanic" aisle is not enough to fulfill my cravings. There are items missing, there are brands I'd prefer not to use, and there is just not enough variety. On top of that, there is more diversity to my race, and I am not well-represented in this singular aisle. Plus, it's expensive.
Tell me, how can I live with myself purchasing these powders and sauces knowing that, in your discounted aisles, the prices are so much cheaper? Your affordable prices are made more affordable since there are weekly specials happening, too. I'm already struggling to balance work and study that buying an overpriced fruit at this overpriced chain store hurts, even more, when I know you have the same fruit for a quarter of the price.
I suppose I can visit a local restaurant to fulfill my cravings, as they seem to be located closer. However, it just isn't the same. These restaurants are trying to become fusion and modernized, which is code for "Not your home cooking." I don't need low-carb versions of my favorite comfort dish. I need the fat, the spice, every piece of raw ingredient that made it feel like a warm blanket on a cold day.
Being away from home adds to the excitement and stress of college. But, there's something about food that brings me back. After a bad day, a difficult exam, or a long meeting, all I want to do is curl up on my apartment couch with the most comforting food I can offer my taste buds. However, it's nearly impossible to replicate the feeling exactly. It's a struggle, but this struggle makes me appreciate meals that my family sends me, that I pack up from home to get through the semester, and that I'm able to make when my roommate occasionally drives me to town. I miss you but missing you just makes me love you more.
A Minority College Student