Being away from home is difficult, but one hardship people might not expect comes from their bellies.
Plaza Latina, a supermarket located about 25 minutes on foot from SCC, specializes in feeding the nostalgics like me.
Plaza Latina is an ode the traditional Latin American stores: sort of unorganized, full of customers, traditional music, a kind but not cheesy or preppy staff, a dizzying variety of products and a nice selection of pastries to choose from.
It’s definitely a departure from typical gentrified American grocery stores.
Variety and Prices
I spent at least 20 minutes looking through all the shelves, which were chock-full of products. I found Argentinian wine, meat, dulce de leche (sweet made from a process of caramelizing milk) and yerba mate (used to prepare the popular mate infusion), Peruvian soda Inca Kola and pisco sour powder (to make the famous alcoholic drink pisco sour).
There were more varieties of Mexican hot sauces than I could count, along with tamales, Venezuelan arequipe (their answer to dulce de leche), chicha morada (a refreshing Peruvian drink) and a selection of churros, conchas and donuts. There were many types of seasonings, all flavors of Jarritos (Mexican soda) and cream-filled sweets.
I purchased plantain chips, an Argentinian brazo gitano (similar to a Swiss roll), a can of Inca Kola, a glass of cold chicha morada, and as many pastries as I could fit into a tray, which amounted to an amazing twelve-or-so dollars.
The pastries are made by the Plaza Latina staff. Unfortunately, I couldn’t catch them fresh out of the oven, but they proved delicious nonetheless.
The flavor of the Inca Kola (and its unusual yellow color) might initially turn away the uninitiated, as it tastes very different than american sodas. Some people describe the Kola as being bubblegum flavoured, also speculating that the original recipe includes lemongrass. If you’re looking for a can of soda that doesn’t taste like cough syrup, Inca Kola could be your choice.
The glass of chicha morada — a drink made by boiling purple corn with cinnamon and pineapple — owes its color to the corn, with the other flavors becoming apparent after the first sip.
Plaza Latina stands out because I know food can be a problem for immigrants. It’s almost impossible for me to find Ecuadorian food and products (except for bananas of course) and Plaza Latina offers me the closest thing I can find, close to campus at least. It’s also nice to be in a building where everybody understands my native language for once.
I sat outside the supermarket to eat my food. I was soaked and the tip of nose was freezing, but the food made me feel just a little closer to home.