Sometimes two occurrences take place simultaneously that cannot be explained away as mere coincidence. Fate, destiny, serendipity. Whatever you want to call it, they happen and you are compelled to action. My serendipitous moment came when 1) I learned of the Super G Mart's opening in Charlotte, and 2) I ran out of banana ketchup. Time for a road trip!
The first thing we noticed when we walked in was the smell. I've found that all "international" markets tend to have the same fish smell. The second thing we noticed was the huge produce section. We saw things we recognized and things we didn't. I saw one woman stuffing handfuls of hot chile peppers into a plastic bag. Whatever she was making, I was glad I wouldn't be there for it. We also spent a fair amount of time making fun of herbs that we'd never heard of. Not so much the herbs themselves, but their names. Lemons were 7 for 99 cents, which was a much better deal than LA had gotten at his neighborhood supermarket, where they were 75 cents each.
A walk through the meat section of any international or ethnic market can be educational, and Super G Mart's is more educational than most. I was eyeing pig uteri when I turned around and came face to face with a whole frozen pig. I think it was staring at me. Less disturbing, but far more horrifying, were the beef lips. We couldn't spend too much time pondering those, because we were getting a little creeped out by their appearance. I didn't get a good look at the variety in the fresh seafood case, as we walked past quickly. The look on LA's face told me that his morning smoothie may make another appearance if we didn't get out of the area. I did see live blue crabs, lobsters, and Self Serve shrimp.
In the frozen food section, I picked up a package of shu mai. I love shu mai. LA wanted some red bean buns, but all directions where in what I assume was Chinese. The illustrations on the back led us to believe that the buns could be cooked in a bamboo steamer, a microwave, or a rice cooker. We couldn't identify any numbers or additional cooking directions, so LA put them back.
Our favorite aisle was probably that containing the canned foods. Not because we loved canned foods so much, but because the packaging on the generic brand was so inventive. The label on the creamed corn had a cartoon corn cob sitting in a creamed corn hot tub, which another corn cob stirred with a giant spoon. The French green bean can was my favorite: Two green beans dancing the tango, one outfitted in a stripped shirt and mustache, the other in a pencil skirt and beret. Another had a mess of beans all wrestling in a ring. Food labelling doesn't get any better than that.
We hurried past what we called the American Food aisle. We were there for the strange products with the funny markings on them. We were successful in the hunt for banana ketchup. Three large bottles went into my basket. Any Asian, Middle Eastern, Indian, or Hispanic product that you may want can probably be found at Super G Mart.
Since we were there on a weekend, another product available in mass quantities was the clueless white Looky Lou. No matter how long and hard you may stare at a label written entirely in Korean, you are not going to spontaneously begin to understand the Korean language. The English translation will not pop out at you if you look long and hard and squint with one eye, like the 3-D pictures that were available in the late '90s. If you can't figure out the label quickly, look at the tag on the shelf. It's in English. Then get out of the way of people who are actually trying to buy things. I'm not against the supermarket tourist, but it's only good manners to go during off-peak hours and move out of the way of paying customers.
I left Super G Mart with three bottles of banana ketchup, frozen shu mai, and a package of tostada shells. LA left with a head filled with ideas of meals to come. We'll definitely be back. Only we may bring our noseplugs next time (and go on a weekday).
The Super G Mart is located at 7323 S. Independence Blvd, in what was previously a Bi-Lo. While they do accept credit and debit cards, they are not currently set up to accept EBT/food stamps. A number of signs around the store, including on the doors and all cash registers, will inform you of this. If you still try to use your food stamps, please know that the cashiers (and other customers) will laugh at you. It's not like you haven't been warned.
P.S. This post was going to be far more interesting and eloquent, but my laptop turned evil as I was trying to post and I lost everything I had typed. I apologize for leaving you with the "I hate my laptop" version.