As mentioned in an earlier post, there was a lot of overtime last week and so my days off involved pretty much rushing around getting caught up on fun stuff (writing this blog) and must-do stuff (groceries).
Today was grocery day, and I tried something new . . . a halal store, one I found by accident a few months ago while waiting for a bus. And I put on a scarf before I went in – that was the adventure.
Northeastern US Multicultural
Even in upstate New York around Albany, there are many cultures, partly because of New York City 150 miles downriver but also because there are several universities and colleges here.
I’m a Theravadan Buddhist but a layperson and so not required to practice vegetarianism.
When I shop it’s the usual mix (unfortunately there aren’t too many Southern staples up here – what I wouldn’t give for a big bottle of Alaga Syrup sometimes!). I like a variety of things, including Kosher hot dogs and pickles.
I do like to bake bread, though, and as a residual from a vegetarian streak many years ago (before ever considering turning Buddhist), I’ve got a taste for rice, beans and nuts. Good food is good food, no matter what.
I probably would never have gone into one of the local halal markets, if not for the late bus during the terrible cold snap we had here a while back. I was just about hypothermic and there was this little store in a strip mall across the street, so I went in.
There was a bit of a culture shock for me, but there were also aisles full of the sort of food I love (rice, flour, beans, spices, etc.) The cinnamon was fresh. The rice was delicious and not that dried out stuff you get in a big-name store that takes 45 minutes to cook. The dried nuts and beans were as fresh and delicious as those down South. The people there were gentle and kind, and friendly.
Well, I decided to go back this week – after checking one thing. There was a big poster on the wall that concerned me because it was in Arabic and featured a scimitar – don’t want to be a fool and support terrorism accidentally.
Not a problem. It turns out those are on the Saudi Arabian flag.
Then, after some thought, I bought a scarf.
Buddhists are respectful of other traditions, and the two women in the store that first visit both were in traditional garb (not with covered faces, though). It’s a store, but still, I figured that was right, just like I’d wear a hat if visiting a Catholic church service (they still do that, right?).
I felt a little self-conscious going in, but then I remembered all the movies of the 50s and 60s, when scarves were chic.
It was okay.
And get this. While waiting for a taxi afterwards, I saw a few women come into the market – all of them were in totally modern dress, no head coverings.
So it wasn’t necessary, but it was fun.
And I learned something – I look good in scarves; also, Muslim women in scarves aren’t any different from you, me, or some gutsy broad who danced in secret to raise money for the Dutch resistance during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands.
Nor is there a need to worry about extremists when visiting a mainstream Muslim store in America, any more than when visiting, say, a Christian or any other belief-centered store.
Remember this, 20 years ago? It’s worth recalling again. Thanks, Mr. Brooks, for doing this one:
One last note
My scarf, I noticed on getting back home, had some hearts on it.
A little bit of love, unwittingly shared today.
That’s cool, too.
Categories: Random thoughts