In the boiling heat of August, after a haircut and blowout in Chelsea I head to Chinatown. In New York City that means a big chunk of streets East of Canal St. and Broadway. Somewhere mixed in is Little Italy, marked by giant fluffy green, reg and white streamers stretched two stories above the street and the hundreds of very mediocre tourist trap restaurants with hosts who will literally grab your arm and pull you inside to eat. But that’s Mulberry street, ignore that and head to Mott St. between Hester and Broome for a two block shock of smells, tastes and sights. Tiny Chinese grandmothers fill rolling carts full of dried mushrooms and herbs, teenage boys drive by in customized cars, hair slicked back and I seem to be the only white person there. The fish stalls smell rank, I peek into a bucket and find live frogs the size of softballs swimming around, dreading to be purchased for only $3.49/lb. I stay away from the seafood stalls and wander into a produce stall where I find incredible white peaches for $.50 cents each and bok choy for $.80 cents/lb., Carrots the size of cucumbers and giant stalks of lemon grass. I am totally overwhelmed and start filling bags with stuff. I have no idea what I’m buying or when I will eat it, but it’s so beautiful and exotic I can’t stop myself. I dread walking to the cashier, ready to relinquish the $40.00 I just took out of the ATM. “Seven-fifty miss” the man says, I can’t believe it! For 7.50, I got two giant carrots, three lemons, four stalks of lemon grass, three heads of baby bok choy, three huge and beautiful white peaches…amazing.
It’s the height of summer and tropical fruit must be pouring in from all over the world. I found dragon fruits, sugar apples, mangosteens, papaya, guava, rambutan and a ton more that I couldn’t identify. There’s this amazing little purple fruit that kind of looks like a tiny shiny plum but tastes like nothing I’ve ever had before, but I’ve had no luck identifying it. So I schlepped all my groceries all the way uptown, fresh blowdry ruined by heat and sweat. However, I did get an overwhelming sense of satisfaction when I walked by the fancy grocery store on Lexington where disappointing peaches were $3.99 a pound, lemons were $1.00 each and there was no sign of delicious bok choy.