Thursday, December 24, 2009

Baking (part 2) – In search of Cinnamon

First Location, Corner Bodega
Upon entering my neighborhood bodega I quickly made a bee line towards the rear of the one set of high shelves that held the overflowing stock of adobo meat tenderizers. I was immediately overwhelmed at the number and variety of items, I never knew that the Woodside community had such a need for softening meat and poultry products, but I digress. I read every label at least twice but I could not locate the cinnamon. At this point I realized I was alone in the bodega, not even the clerk was in attendance. I yelled out, “HELLO? HELLO?” Then out from the darkened doorway immediately to my left appeared a man with his pants completely spread open with his belt dangling limply at his sides. “Yes?”, “Ummm (eyes diverted) do you have cinnamon?”, “No. No cinnamon” and with that he turned on his heels and returned through the darkened doorway. I left the bodega feeling like my gingerbread would always be tainted by this very dirty situation.

Second Location, Asian Grocery Market

The smell of fish was blinding, the crowd of intent shoppers was abrasive, and besides not being able to decipher the grocery labels the items themselves were unrecognizable. I found some small jars that appeared to be spices but I was totally out of my league. I asked one of the 8 cashiers if they stocked cinnamon and without a glance up from her register she grunted loudly and pointed in the direction of the spice rack that had so mystified me. I returned to the area and called back to the cashier, “HERE? Over HERE? The cinnamon is here?” She quickly lost patience with my unfocused Afikoman hunting skills and began shouting at a 4 foot tall man who was about 123 years old. He looked at the cashier, then at me, then at her again as she kept shouting and pointing. He shuffled over in his house slippers squeezed past me to the end of the row and held out a paper bag of cinnamon sticks. I smiled and shook my head while delivering a silent look that conveyed this sentiment - yeah thanks for the trouble but I need the Caucasian prepackaged ground stuff with a plastic shaker cap.

Third Location, Mexican Fruit Stand
Ah big, airy, clean and empty. I casually sauntered ‘round the indoor fruit and veggie stand thinking about all the tasty treats people who cook could make, all the while searching for the very recognizable spice jars (bottles? containers?). After completing my tour I approached the cheery cashier and inquired about the cinnamon. Pleasantly she smiled and with an outstretched arm pointed towards a peg board covered with small plastic bags. I smiled back and repeated, “No, cinnamon.” She repeated, “Cinnamon” and pointed at the peg board. With trepidation I approached the dangling clear plastic bags and within just a few seconds I discovered to my surprise a red and green package with a palm tree labeled “Canela Molida - Ground Cinnamon”. Gracias Mammi!

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