Today, during my lunch break, I walked to the library on 6th, the main post office on 5th then to Izzy's Deli on Wilshire and 15th, where I could purchase a bag of rye bread heels for $1.50. The heel is my favorite part of any loaf of bread and I consider it downright sublime if covered with a thin layer of ripe avocado topped with a thin slice of fresh tomato and a pinch of salt. THAT is heaven! On the return trip I passed a smallish store that gave my peripheral vision the impression of imported goods. I stopped, looked over my shoulder at the dark-tinted store windows then checked my watch and saw I had time to briefly explore the store. I'd intended to stop at Von's for some veggies but this new found store seemed to promise a mini-adventure. I walked through the doors and was greeted by shelves stocked with Mediterranean/Middle Eastern/Indian goodies. There were teas, condiments, baked goods, rices, flours, spices, oils, fresh produce and a deli counter.
Any vegan knows -- and I am vegan -- Middle Eastern, Indian and Mediterranean cuisine is not only tasty, it's often suitable for vegans in the yummiest of ways. I glided up and down the aisles, eyes wide and a barely contained child-like giddiness. I hardly knew where to start. One of the practical things about walking everywhere is there's a limit to how much I'm able or willing to carry. If I'm more than 3 blocks from home (as I was at that point), I will not carry more than one bag of -- anything -- so I knew I would have to limit any purchase to what would fit in the single cloth bag I carried. I proceeded to prowl for gold. I limited my treasure today to 4 Roma tomatoes that actually smell like they were just picked from the vine, 4 small fresh zucchini, a ripe avocado and a container of fresh made hummus with Galilee olives mixed in. There was still room in the bag for a small slice of marble halavah but one brief reality-check of my "wide load" rear-end easily convinced me to leave that delicacy locked in the deli case.
The man behind the counter must have noticed my face-wide smile when I walked up to pay. "You look very happy!" he said. "I am!" I answered, "How long has this market been here?" "Twenty years" he replied. It is a rather small shop with a modest, simple sign, "Teheran Market" above the doors. I'd seen the sign from across the street on many previous trips around town. When walking on the same side of the street as the store, it's easy to miss if you're not looking for it or in a hurry to somewhere else. I'm so glad I stopped. I didn't buy any teas, spices or unique items specifically from the Middle East or India, but now I know what awaits when I return! I must have missed the memo on this store. Everyone else in Santa Monica probably knows about it except me. Nevertheless, I am delighted to have found it. It's just another gem in the experience of living in Santa Monica. Today was my first visit to the store but it won't be my last.