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What's on the Menu?

I was the guide for this outing. I told Kay to wear walking shoes and eat a very light breakfast. We were off to Jacksonville Beach for an hour's walk and then to a recently opened family-run restaurant.

Even though Duval County is closer socially, politically, and racially to the stereotypical South than it is to the rest of Florida, there is surprising ethnic and racial diversity here. According to the US government census report of 2015, Duval is 56% white, 30% African-American, 9% Hispanic and 5% Asian.

We've discovered one way to explore and enjoy that diversity is to visit our local ethnic restaurants and grocery stores and markets. So this mystery tour found us in the "Marianas Grinds" - a restaurant run by a family from the Marianas Islands - the US territories of Guam, Saipan, Rota, Tinian, & Agrihan.

Some of the delicious food items were: Spam Musubi, Chicken Kelaguen, Buchi Buchi. This is a dessert dish—a turnover-like pastry made with either apple or papaya. And then there was a Chamorro Platter with Fiesta Rice, Island Style Slaw and delicious fried chicken or pork. We haven't tried everything on the menus yet but that's a wonderful goal.

Naturally, almost every city or town has good Mexican and Italian restaurants. They're familiar to us - so we don't include them in mystery tours. But other different cuisines we have found in the Jacksonville area deserve our further explorations: Peruvian, Colombian, Korean, Vietnamese, Lebanese, Indian, Ethiopian, Balkan, & Cuban.

With just one nudge at Google we have found grocery stores and markets for at least this many different ethnicities and countries: Asian, an international food market, Latino, Caribbean, Haitian, Indian, Greek, Middle Eastern, Thai and Cuban. What a wealth of new dishes, fruits, veggies, spices to explore.

When we have visited any of these, the proprietors have all been very helpful with suggestions about how to prepare and serve those things unfamiliar to us.

Moral of the tour: try out the different ethnic food markets and restaurants in your own area and get adventurous with your cooking and eating. Try something new - you and your family may love the variety.

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