Off-Putting South Asian Foodways

banh mi sandwich

There’s a market not too far from me that carries banh mi sandwiches. It used to be just Tuesdays and maybe one other day, but they’re stocked every time I’m there, which isn’t always a Tuesday.

    • They’re not the finest

banh mi 

    • – that would require real roast pork slices, and a long time ago, the market sold those very sandwiches, with rich, red, crusty slices of roast pork, ruffles of cilantro, incendiary slices of small Vietnamese peppers, thick, high-quality mayo, tomato slices, cucumber and carrot shreds. Instead, this

banh mi

     uses some kind of ham-like matter and what I call Vietnamese bologna. A sliced-from-a-roll,  smooth textured lunch meat that I’ve seen for sale only once, understandably.

It’s worth speculating on how many aspects of a sandwich you can degrade and still maintain the sandwich’s desirability. This one still makes the cut, but barely.

    The sandwich price seems to change occasionally, or for me anyway. That’s the MO of the market. On three visits, the item I’m holding is somehow, so-mysteriously mismarked with a price that’s to low by up to 50 cents.  “That price mark wrong,” the owner will say. And a higher price is mentioned. Once I naively paid it. Another time I paid it, knowing I was being overcharged, but the item (white peppercorns? coconut milk?) still cost much less than in a conventional grocery. And once I put the item back on the shelf.

It’s not against the law, what the store is doing. Chicanery, yes. Illegal, no. There’s a long, fine tradition of special Anglo pricing. Now that I’ve figured out what’s going on, I confirm the price of everything before I get to the register. Or I am prepared to put it back  on the shelf.

    Why do I go there? Because it feels so good when I leave.