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    Eat & Swig

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    If you have traveled overseas you may share my delight in browsing through foreign grocery stores, wondering at the unusual and exotic (to us) items lining the shelves. Or perhaps not, maybe that’s just my weird thing. But if it is your thing, or even if you’re just a hard-core foodie, nirvana is waiting for you just a couple hours away on Route 4 in Cincinnati.

     Jungle Jim’sJungle Jim’s International Market is an institution in our neighbor to the north-east, and I didn’t know how good I had it when I lived in the Queen city, able to just drop in whenever I needed an obscure ingredient. If you haven’t been, picture a sprawling store at least the size of a Costco, but instead of aisles of megalithic boxes of crackers and gallon jugs of soup you find foodstuffs from the four corners of the globe. Not the stuff they package for export that we all already know about, but the groceries you’d see sitting in the shelves in small German, Thai or Calcutta towns.

    Fanatical foodies share the aisles with citizens hailing from the farthest reaches of the world. Jeans and sweaters at one end of the aisle give way to traditional African or Middle Eastern garb at the other. Midwestern English bubbles among the Spanish, Chinese, British and German rising excitedly from among the shelves stocked with goodies from back home – wherever home may be. Fruits and vegetables I’ve never heard of, much less know how to pronounce or prepare are yours for the taking. Endless cheeses, butters and olives compete for your attention and dollar. The items are curiouser and curiouser the further you venture into this bizarre but wonderful neverland. Sugar coated chickpeas anyone?

    My husband and I stopped in on our way home from a Labor Day trip to Michigan, ostensibly just to pop in for a quick lap around. Ha. An hour and a half and $140 later we emerged laden with fabulous foreign treats, wishing we could have had at least another hour. You cannot do Jungle Jim’s justice in less than three hours. You need a vast stretch of time to fully explore each country’s aisle or nook. If you need a break partway through you can step into the little theater for a movie about the store’s history. And for your friends back home you can pick up postcards.

    Whether you’re an epicure or a traveler you must get yourself and a station wagon to Cincinnati soon. Better yet, let’s rent a bus and make a field trip of it. For now I’m off to figure out what to do with my Moroccan harissa, French beluga lentils and rose water, Italian buffalo mozzarella and the rest of my bounty.

    Jungle Jim’s International Market
    5440 Dixie Highway Fairfield, Ohio 45014

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