Small Town, USA

In op-ed on 07/15/2009 at 8:00 am

While it’s true that big box chains are taking over the country, there are still outposts of Ma and Pa outside NYC. You just have to look closely. These days, the closest Barnes n’ Noble from me is about 30 minutes drive away. On 1/9, there’s all the name brand stores you could ever ask for, but in walking distance from your house outside NYC, it’s downright country. I can hear the train whistle in the distance, and as Paul Simon says, who doesn’t love that?

In the boonies where I worked this week, I took a walk during lunch, about 5-10 minutes from my clinic in all directions. Far Rockaway, Queens, at its best, has an unadulterated winter-in-the-Hamptons feel to it. Further east, in Hempstead, as you flirt with Long Island, it is tiny hamlets, made up of houses and maybe one strip mall at most. The best foodie stuff is hidden in non-descript buildings, nestled in the heart of the subdivision.

About two blocks from 878 expressway, there was an Italian Deli. But it wasn’t just your average deli where you get Boar’s Head ham sandwiches. I went in even though I already ate because I saw three yuppies coming out of there with plastic bags with subs tucked inside. This was a straight outta-the-boot establishment, run by grandpa and grandma. Everything on the shelves was imported from Italy, labeled in Italian. There was no menu board and no one said anything to me, just shot me some mean old stares. There was nothing refurbished about that place. It was stubbornly stuck in early 20th century.

On Main Street, there was a Latin bakery/deli with a cafeteria-style lunch service in the back, crammed chockful of the local laborer/office workers. I hadn’t seen any offices or construction sites nearby so this place must’ve been really good. All five tables were full. I regretted once again that I had eaten my lunch prior to my jaunt ‘downtown.’

In the 5 block radius in my ‘hood, we stumbled upon a bodega called Europa Pomabalense at the bottom of the hill from the train station. It turned out to be a minimart specializing in Portuguese products, with butcher in the back and a tiny attached fishmonger on the side.We’ve tried their blood sausage (meh, kinda dry), but alas, they don’t sell linguiça. This is also our new source for amazingly fresh salmon fish heads (the last time we got some, the customer before us had just bought filets from the same exact fish; nice scam, profiting double from one corpse), slab bacon (which we slice extra thick chunks to go with our pancakes), and flan chino el mandarin, a boxed pudding.

take this, club P.C.!

That’s what I love about random food stores, scrounging amongst the shelves to find products that crack me up. Actually, the other half alerted me to this gem, so we just had to have one. Since I’m not too keen on pudding, we’ll probably just keep it for nostalgic value. It reminds me of the equally un-P.C. toothpaste I grew up using, Darkie brand.

death to P.C.!

They have since changed the name to something less ‘offensive’ and even the logo suddenly got an attack of vitiligo. Ah, the good ol’ days. Cue John Mellencamp handclaps.

  1. i don’t understand how a “portuguese” store does not sell linguica. how about caçoila? boo.

  2. ah well, life isn’t perfect. but they do have these awesome retro graphic native coffee mugs that come with pre-packaged ground coffee for $14.99. we’re still debating whether to make the plunge.

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