I listened to Padma Lakshmi on Cherry Bombe Heritage Radio (If you love food and champion women – you will enjoy these podcasts.) Her words about her life in India were so evocative that I bought her autobiography: Love, Loss and What We Ate. And only then realised that she was the model that was married to Salman Rushdie and presented America’s Top Chef. It turns out that wading through the tribulations of becoming a successful model? Not so interesting but when she begins to write about food, especially Indian food, I’m hooked.
With my belly leading the way, I headed for the Raval. Knowing that somewhere among the phone shops (why are there so many phone shops?) I would find an Indian grocer. Carrer de Sant Pau my friend Sarah and Anjalina both told me.
I stepped into J.K. Asian Foods to find the owner, Harshat, stocking shelves.
“Is this the best Indian grocers in Barcelona.”
“Yes. 32 years we are here.” He smiled.
“Good. I thought so. Can I take pictures?”
“Yes, of course, please.” A bewildered Harshat answered.
I asked for fresh curry leaves, they didn’t have those but they had frozen ones. I picked up my Asafoetida, bags of fragrant rice, packets of papadams, jars of chutneys. Even sachets of savoury porridge.
I amassed a large hoard in twenty minutes which I took over to the till. Harshat was talking out loud to a handset propped on the till. He took my 50 euro bill and waved it in front of the phone. The two men in the handset laughed at the big bill.
I peered over the checkout counter “Conference call?” I asked, waving to two mustachioed men, sitting under a tree.
“Yes, my family. In India.”
It got me thinking, about Lakshmi, whose mother emigrated to America after a unsuccessful marriage and subsequent divorce made living in India untenable. And Harshat, here in Barcelona. Or Hawa Hassan who escaped civil war in Somalia, lived apart from her mother for 15 years and as an adult set up Basbaas. Those that didn’t have the privilege of starting from a level playing field and yet still made it. Those stories are incredible and worth hearing.
J.K. Asian Supermarket
Carrer De Sant Pau, 25
08001 El Raval