For the second field trip of the semester, my classmates and I visited an Indian grocery store named Taj Grocers in Plano, Texas. After walking through the front door of the grocery store, I was welcomed with the aroma of various Indian spices. I immediately noticed the immense variety of Indian food that the grocery store had to offer. One thing that caught my eye in particular was the rice that was on display at the store. The rice was being sold at quantities greater than any quantity of food I had ever seen before. The rice was packaged in massive bags and stacked one bag on top of another down an entire aisle of the store. The stacked bags of rice were stacked so high, it almost appeared as a wall of bagged rice that measured up to my torso. Along with the impressive quantities of different Indian foods, another thing that caught my attention was the fact that there was no meat sold in the store. A large section of most American grocery stores is the deli that sells meat in the back of the store, but this was absent from Taj Grocers. This is due to the fact that many Indian people are vegetarians and refuse to eat meat.
Another thing that was unique about this grocery store compared to grocery stores I have visited growing up, was the fact that it not only sold food, but it also had multiple small retail shops within the store. I was able to walk into a small authentic Indian clothing store during my visit. Taj Grocers did a great job of immersing its clients into the Indian culture through the many services provided in its large store. One thing that was very prevalent to me throughout my visit to Taj Grocers was that although the target market for the store is predominantly Indian, the store does a great job uniting communities and giving outsiders a chance to look in and understand more about Indian culture. This is stated in the article, From Curry Mahal’s to Chaat Café’s, when the author states, “These are sites of hybridity and cultural contact where multiple words, networks, processes, and agents interact with each other”. This quote summarizes the idea that a cultural aimed store such as Taj Grocers, is not meant to divide communities, but it has the potential to unite different cultures through the one thing we all love most, food.
The final part of the trip was a visit to the Taj Chaat House. The Taj Chaat House is a small restaurant located in the back corner of the grocery store. The Taj Chaat House serves nearly authentic Indian cuisine made directly on site. The first thing I noticed when I walked into the Taj Chaat House was the wide variety of options displayed on their large menu (pictured below). My professor recommended naan to the non-adventurous, like me. Although I was very skeptical of eating Indian food when I first arrived at the Taj Chaat House, I ended up splitting cheese naan with my friends. Naan is a relatively simple dish that consists of a soft texture, spongy bread. It can be served with butter, cheese, potatoes etc. The food tasted very fresh and although it was something I had never tried before, it had some of the same characteristics of foods that I eat everyday. My visit to the Taj Chaat House was educational, and taught me not to judge another cultures food before trying it.
Arijit Sen, “From Curry Mahals to Chaat Cafes” Specialties of the South Asian Culinary Landscape University of California Press, 2012.203-204