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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Specialty market carries a tune and food

    Harvey Brooks, the music consultant at the 17th Street Market, looks at photographs of prominent music artists he knows that adorn the wall in the music section of the market. Along with the food, the market also stages small musical performances every Saturday.
    Harvey Brooks, the music consultant at the 17th Street Market, looks at photographs of prominent music artists he knows that adorn the wall in the music section of the market. Along with the food, the market also stages small musical performances every Saturday.

    Tucson Spotlight

    What’s on your shopping list this week? Milk, bread, butter, flaming hot Cheetos and a case of your favorite brew? Try shopping with this food list – Caribbean bagels, guava jelly, fruit-flavored beef jerky, ginger beer and agave sticks. For Tucsonans, these funky foods are easy to find if you go to the right place, the 17th Street Market.

    I ventured down to the corner of East 17th Street and North Euclid Avenue, looking for the market that is known mostly by word of mouth. It was then that I spotted a blue warehouse with big white letters boldly stating “”17th Street Market.””

    As that old saying goes, “”expect the unexpected.”” I lived that saying at this eclectic market. Walking into the market in absolute awe, I had a slight grin, realizing that I had stumbled upon a hidden treasure. This was a world market that represented food from virtually every continent.

    At first glance I couldn’t tell how the food aisles were split up; there was a little of everything on each shelf. But I put it together that simply enough, the food was split up into culinary genres: British, Middle Eastern, Indian, Japanese, Mexican, Jamaican and Chinese products. The food was as diverse as the shoppers who choose the products from the shelves.

    One quiet and reserved Japanese couple was debating (in Japanese) about the possible flavors of a durian wafer. Curiosity got to me, so I kindly asked what they thought about the wafer with a prickly green fruit on the box. The young man explained in broken English that the durian is a fruit that tastes like sweet onions and isn’t the best wafer flavor. The couple ended up choosing the vanilla wafers over the durian ones, a safe bet in my mind.

    Fish heads for 99 cents weren’t exactly flying off the shelves in the fish section, but the selection of fresh-caught fish was going fast. Fresh fish is this market’s specialty. Vendors carry more than 30 types of fresh fish and have a large selection of shellfish. Behind the counter in the fish section was a man skillfully slicing up Chilean sea bass for a line of customers, who each seemed anxious to get a piece. He explained to me that they receive daily shipments of fresh-caught fish from California, Oregon, Mexico and Canada.

    Not only does this market carry food products from all around the world, but it also carries a tune of live music from various cultures. I wandered around the music area, venturing among the Pakistani drum sets, American Indian flutes, antique cowbells and ash-colored gongs. The music area is intimate and somewhat out of the ordinary because it’s in a grocery store. This adds another layer to my unexpected trip – live music while you shop. Every Saturday afternoon, musicians entertain the market shoppers while they browse all the amenities the market has to offer.

    Posted at the end of each aisle were small yellow flyers, promoting an upcoming live music performance from Papa Susso. Susso is an oral historian and musician from West Africa. He has played at the Carnegie Music Hall in New York, and is known for playing the “”kora,”” a 21-stringed harp-lute. Susso will perform Friday, and from what I’ve heard, it’s not something you want to miss.

    Before I knew it, the store was closing and I had spent over an hour looking at food and reading the labels trying to decipher what lay within the packaging (which was especially amusing on the bag of chicken chips). I wasn’t ready to leave, but I knew that I could always go back for a new adventure and a purchase of something that I have never tried before.

    Spending my lazy Saturday wandering around the eclectic market was an amusing adventure; from the durian-flavored wafers to the fruit-flavored beef jerky. I walked away in bliss and of course with a few purchases and new additions to my shopping list: Japanese chocolate-covered pretzels and Caribbean bagels.

    Here is a new saying I created for the 17th Street Market, “”shop ’till you drop, or ’till the music is up.”” I will choose that any day over a trip to campus for a library study session.

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