I just love unexpected, unplanned cross-cultural experiences! Today, on our way home from church, we spontaneously decided to stop at the flea market that we’ve whizzed past every Sunday along Alemany Blvd at the junction of 101 and 280 South here in San Francisco. I’ve never ever been particularly fond of flea markets so this was my first visit in the 9 years that we’ve live in the bay area. Since the kids were eager to stop and my husband is strangely fond of bringing home junk…opps (did I just say that?)…I mean useful second hand objects. I figured we could grab a cheap bite from one of the many food trucks at the flea market and then walk around and look at all the piles of stuff being sold.
Little did I know that I was about to discover the best papusas I’ve ever had! We pulled into a parking spot and right next to our car was a totally unassuming vendor making fresh papusas. Our 3 and 6 year have never had papusas and it was delightful for the kids (and myself) to watch this El Salvadorian family skillfully moulding the corn maze dough, filling them and flattening them into perfect circles. Our kids were mesmerized by the the rhythm of pat, turn, flip, pat, turn, flip…
These golden brown “pancakes” filled with cheese and meat (or spinach) were topped with a pickled coleslaw and some mild hot sauce. The combination was moist, soft and crunchy all at the same time. I’ve had papusas several times in my life, but none have ever been as good as these ones at the flea market. I was so happy that our kids were excited to try the papusas because I never know with young kids how they are going to react to something unfamiliar. Most times they aren’t particularly adventurous with their food, but we keep trying to introduce them to different cuisines. We have a rule in our family that you can’t say you don’t like a type of food until you’ve tried it. For just $12.50, it was an unexpected opportunity to expose our kids to a new culture.
In most major cities in America, immigrants bring the world to us. Although their communities are often very tight knit, food is one of those basic human experiences that every culture takes great pride in and welcomes the foreigner to experience. I am thankful that we live in an area where there are so many ethnic restaurants where we can get a taste of a different culture. Since, we’re aren’t leaving US soil this summer, I think we’ll have to do the next best thing – explore the world with our tummies.