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Uptown

#5: Old World Market

Easy like a Sunday morning (and afternoon thru evening) was the weather in Chicago. It was too hard to stay indoors and use the excuse that I’m “making good choices for my dollars” (read:broke). So I hit the streets to hit up some grocery stores.

Recently, I’ve discovered or got an inkling that I may have gluten allergies. So, being the proud owner of no health insurance and no patience visit the Fantus Clinic at Cook County Hospital, I just cut the stuff out. So, while searching for gluten-free cafes with free Wi-fi I came across Cassava in Boystown. They use cassava flour to make their yummy stuff. I had no idea what cassava is. So I did a Google search I found out that it comes from a plant grown in topical regions.

Cassava (Manihot esculenta), also called yuca or manioc, a woody shrub of the Euphorbiaceae (spurge family) native to South America, is extensively cultivated as an annual crop in tropical and subtropical regions for its edible starchy tuberous root, a major source of carbohydrates. It differs from the similarly-spelled yucca, an unrelated fruit-bearing plant.

Cassava is the third-largest source of carbohydrates for meals in the world.[1][2] Nigeria is the world’s largest producer of cassava. — From Wikipeda

A few Google searches also match it with Tapioca flour. A few links I did read seem to say the two aren’t one and the same, but either way, I wanted to see if I could find this potential gluten replacement.  I found Old World Market in Uptown.

I hate the North side but that’s for another blog/rant/day.

Old World reminded me (after I got past the dead fish smell that greets you at door) of the small shops in Asia I searched for when I had to scratch that itch for Mexican food. It’s small mom-pop store that offers an African, Jamaican/Caribbean selection.  So, I was in for a bit of an adventure.

The meat/fish department is small and basic – got your chicken, beef and pig. But they also have goat meat. I came about *this* close to turning vegetarian after seeing the goat heads they have for sale and wondered if Baron Samedi would serve me next.

As for the cassava flour (24 oz/$3.99, 4 lb/9.99) , I found that in abundance along with pea, rice (no brown), yam, potato, bean, Semolina and oat flours. All to make this Fufu stuff. Yea, I’m not to hip on what African dishes are, even though Jesse Jackson pushed hard for the American public in the late 80s to refer to me

as part one. Truth be told I felt a strange disconnect. The palm oil, smoked cow skin and feet and salted pork, feet and snouts didn’t register. I couldn’t understand or recall any memories around making a dish that involved dried okra and peanut butter base for soup or sharing the joy of community over malt drinks and ginger beer. And as I stared and read numerous box labels to understand the hell fufu is, I realized that I had absolutely no culinary vocabulary or skills related to the African diaspora.

Sad. But on the upside they a had a good rice selection. A 25 LB bag of Uncle Ben’s Brown Rice for $24.99. That would last me for 3 years, well if I’m still single in three years.

The customers were the only complaint I have about the place, mostly women who were pushy even in one case outright rude. Also, I noticed the common theme of ethnic market=dingy, dusty and musty. I wonder why that is? I’m somewhat certain (or is it just blind faith) that these markets are up to code or cleaning however I can’t understand why their level of cleanliness isn’t on par with corporate managed stores? Nevertheless, it was all good to just pursue and imagine what joy their cooking talents might bring.


After Old World, I hit two other stores in the area and then headed to Cassava. I had their beef/cheese empanada and chili. Both were very good and the cassava flour as a pastry, which tasted similar in texture to Japanese mochi, chewy. my first though was if this was in a bread recipe will I get gummy bread? Who knows, but I’m reading good stuff about using the flour as replacement for wheat, which is encouraging. 

Old World Market  // 5129 N Broadway // (between Winona St & Carmen Ave) // (773) 989-4440  // Open from  Monday to Saturday 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays 6 to 8 p.m.

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A visual journalist living in Chicago.

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