Asian Farm

For those of you not familiar with the lay of the land of Accordion City, I live in a tiny pocket residential neighbourhood bordered by the one of the Chinatowns (we’ve got at least three here) to the north and east. Hence our house’s unofficial name, Big Trouble in Little China.

Big Trouble is a minute’s walk from Asian Farm, the English name of a large Chinese supermarket whose original name was “Big Land Farm” (I guess someone finally decided to get the name translated properly). In Asia, the Chinese have a reputation for scrimping and saving, and the prices here reflect that. Chicken legs sell for 79 cents a pound, pork goes for about a buck fifty, with beef and fish going for only a little more. If you’re a cook-it-yourself type who’s also not a wuss, you can get fish heads and chicken necks (with bonus head) for a soup stock that’s miles better — and cheaper — than what you can make with bouillon cubes. And hey, they’ve got squid puffs! Asian Farm lets Paul and I cook healthy gourmet dinners for five for about a two dollars a person, a blessing given the underemployed circumstances we’ve lived in until recently.

The Asian Farm clientele is, as one would expect, mostly Chinese. You can do all your shopping here speaking only Cantonese or Mandarin. In fact, a lot of the signage is only in Chinese characters, including the most important one: the prices of the two dozen brands of rice they carry. I can read the pictograms for our house’s preferred brand, Golden Ox, and for when I really feel like blowing the budget and living large in the rice sense, Golden Buddha, the tastiest and most expensive of the lot. After Golden Buddha, Uncle Ben’s becomes the “bad touch uncle”. They get a lot of customers from other Asian countries; lots of Vietnamese and Filipinos do their groceries here and you almost always hear someone speaking in Tagalog on their cell phones.

Speaking of cell phones, whenever someone’s rings in Asian Farm, you’ll see everyone frantically looking at their pockets and belts, checking to see if it’s theirs. Like everyone else who caught the big sale at the Chinatown Centre’s phone store, I got the Kyocera phone (with built in tip calculator and I Ching!) and chose Wagner’s Flight of the Valkyrie for the ring used whenever one of my friends calls. Unfortunately, that tends to be the favoured ring of everyone in the neighbourhood from grade school kids to little old ladies, and there’s a mass self-frisking every time that ring gets played. “Aiyah! Not mine.”

Whenever I go shopping there, it’s like a real-life game of AllLookSame for the staff. They first try addressing me in Chinese, and my Chinese is limited to food, a couple of polite things to say to people’s parents and cussing (I’m really good with the cussing). I answer back in English, and after that, the conversation continues — the verbosity directly proportional to how much English they’ve mastered. They do try to guess my nationality, but strangely enough, none of them have figured out I’m Filipino. I don’t have the accent, and to them, I look either Korean or Japanese. The last time I went to buy pork chops (fourteen for less than five bucks!), the butcher concluded with a slight bow and a “domo arrigato” (Japanese for “thank you very much”). I was going to correct him, but then Ride of the Valkyrie started playing, which had me, all the guys behind the meat counter and a couple of people behind me in line checking their phones. It was mine.

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