Everyone defines the necessities of life differently. One of mine is Korean food. I eat a lot of it. Where I live, however, Mexican is considered foreign food and chop suey is considered Chinese. To fulfill my needs I have to get up early, sometimes load a cooler or two in the truck, and drive three to four hours toward Washington DC. This is a schlep. If I want German bread, Polish or Russian pickled vegetables or baklava, it’s the same thing , only over to Harrisonburg, an hour and a half drive. Even for something as mundane as bagels, I have to drive over that darn mountain to Charlottesville I do a lot of sclepping.
The verb to schlep is Yiddish. I learned my liimted Yiddish vocabulary from the grandparents and parents of friends growing up. They were useful words; they sounded like what they meant and you could say them with gusto. Yiddish is a mix of languages. It first started as Biblical Hebrew, but after the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, speaking Biblical Hebrew was considered too holy for daily use. Around the 11th century, Ashkenazi Jews living in or around the areas now known as Germany and Poland started speaking a language that was a mix of Biblical Hebrew, Aramaic, German and Polish. The term ייִדיש (Yiddish) did not become the name of the language until the 18th century.
The word has more than one usage but in my case it’s always : To carry, drag, or lug. It has connotations of difficulty, of being something odious you really could live without the extra effort of, as in : I’m exhausted after schlepping those packages around all day. A troublesome journey, as in multiple flights of stairs, overcrowded subways or bumper to bumper driving is a schlep and believe me within 50 miles of Washington, it’s always bumper to bumper.
Yesterday was one of those schlepping days, all the way up to Fairfax county across from DC. Among the things I schlepped up were donations for my favorite charity thrift which I discovered was closed and gone. So I had to schlep them back. I’ve been buying and donating there for fifteen years and it was there for many years before I moved to the neighborhood. It made me sad. At least McKay’s bookstore was busy. I traded in three boxes of books I had also schlepped up for credit and used some of it while I was there. What they don’t accept for sale goes into a “Help Yourself – Free” bin outside.
As a compensation for loosing Clock Tower Thrift an Ollie’s had opened next to McKays. Ollie’s is like a dollar store on steroids. You can find all kinds of bargains and it saved the day for me. The night before my aging oven caught fire. The top burners are OK but I don’t trust using the oven. Ollies had just gotten in some Black & Decker toaster ovens for dirt cheap. Bringing this prize back was no schlep.
Above all, I got my Korean groceries. The sesame oil and he brand of ramen I like were both on sale, too. In Korean markets, the sales are serious, too. I got eight dollars off on each case of ramen and seven off on each gallon can of sesame oil. At such prices the limit was two per customer but the oil will last me all winter.
I also had time to stop at the Amish market and pick up a few things. I don’t understand buying those tiny supermarket herb and spice bottles at sky high prices. At the Amish markets, they buy in bulk and sell in bulk. You can do this at Whole Foods and some other higher end markets but the Amish are cheaper. In the past couple of years they have expanded considerably what they get in that’s organic, too. I buy herbs like carraway seeds and dried vegetable flakes to add to soups. Spices I usually get in bulk at an Indian market, again vastly cheaper. They have a fantastic range, but not some of the things common in European cooking, like marjoram and the carraway seeds. The best part was, the money I saved at the Korean grocery paid for the things at the Amish market.