From Hangry to Happy: Foods from Around the World
Ask any group of travelers what they do it for: “Why do you travel? What are your favorite things about visiting new places?” I guarantee you, from at least half the group, the answer will be “Food.”
I remember on my first trip to Italy, my partner and I went out to dinner. “Pizza tonight, pasta tomorrow,” I remember saying, believing that 90% of Italian food was carbs. I thought we would share a pizza, but my partner denied me. “Order your own,” he said. And I did, reluctantly.
One hour later I sat in front of an empty plate, rid almost entirely of crumbs, belly full and brain buzzing. It’s about the food. For days after I wandered in and out of food shops, bought local bread, ate cheese I couldn’t pronounce, drank wine and cooked pasta made out of shapes I’ll never know the name for. So much of travel, of experiencing culture, each other, and ourselves, is wrapped up in food.
Driving through Winkler and Morden the last couple days, I stopped in shop after shop. In one, colorful shelves filled with dried goods, tins of beans and peppers, bags of yerba mate stared back at me. There were banners hung from the ceiling: Mexican flags and paper mache. Goods from all across Mexico, Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentina lined the shelves. I had gone in for research. I left with a bag of Jamaica tea, Mexican hot sauces, and a bag of house-roasted peanuts. There are two of these shops in Winkler, each with goods from across the Equator, each with employees and guests chattering in fluent, excitable Spanish.
In another shop, I could hardly read the labels of any of the goods they carried. Russian, Ukrainian, and German jars and cans lined the shelves: all authentic imports. I love these stores. I love wandering up and down aisles, guessing at things. ‘Pickled Watermelon? What’s that like?’ … Turns out, it’s amazing.
I asked the owner of the shop what she sold the most of. “Candies,” she said, in a Russian accent. “People come here often to buy little things that remind them of home.” I didn’t doubt it. An entire wall was filled with bins, all brightly wrapped candies in a motley of languages. All begging to be sampled. So I did, naturally.
The owner also imports whole bread doughs from Germany, which they bake in-house. Wafting through the air were the scents of sweet wheat and sourdough. There are two of these shops: one in Winkler, one in Morden. As I left, three children walked in, all speaking Russian. ‘Where am I?’ I wondered to myself. And that’s how it is here: a smattering of cultures, languages, all mixed into one, and the food culture reflects that.
There are more, in these towns. Bakeries, butcheries with locally raised meats, a coffee roaster. There’s a food truck where a German man and woman with thick accents sell authentic donair kebobs; roasting chicken turns on a spit, gyro meat simmering in the back. There are stores that you walk into where not a single thing reminds you of North America. ‘Specialty Food Shops,’ they call these in cities. But here, it’s just normal. These shops aren’t all lined up in a row, with cute names begging tourists to stop in. And they shouldn’t be. Because they’re real. They are reflections of the people of this area: German, Russian, Ukrainian, Central and South American.
So the next time you feel like cooking something new: paella perhaps, or hosting an asado, making pirogies or baking your own bread, don’t go to the city. Come to Winkler and Morden and explore real food culture, with real ingredients from around the world.
For Central and South American Foods, visit Sunny Day Products and El Roi in Winkler.
For Russian, Ukrainian, German and more, visit Kolos European Groceries, with locations in both Winkler and Morden.
Also be sure to visit: Other Brother Coffee Roaster, Dimi’s Donair Kebobs and Gyros, Spenst Brothers Premium Meats, and more!
By: Carmen Faulkner