Is it bananas? Or plantains?

WARNING: I’ll try to keep the contents of this post somewhat relevant to the main goals of my blog (translation, generally). If I fail miserably, I apologize.

Today, I went with a couple of co-wokers to La Mexicana, a local Mexican grocery store/restaurant. Co-worker #1 was hunting for ingredients to make mole, Co-worker #2 is a cooking expert, and I was tagging along. I ended up going home with a package of mole (wish me luck!), a single green plantain (suitable for plaintain fritters, also known as tostones), a can of pigeon peas and a jar of sofrito (to make arroz con gandules).

One of the better methods of learning a language is to immerse yourself in the culture. Spending time abroad (a significant amount of time interacting with the locals) is one of the better ways. However, if this is not practical due to money and/or time constraints, there are other ways. Perhaps visiting an ethnic store or two. Grocery stores really offer you some very interesting glimpses into a culture that you cannot get from a book.


  • The contents of the magazine stand. Spanish-language tabloids appear obsessed with true crime (“She poisoned her children and then killed herself!“) and not so much with celebrities.
  • So many parts of a cow are considered good eatin’. Tongue, anyone?
  • Plátano stands for two completely different types of produce in, say, Puerto Rico (plantains) and Mexico (bananas). Keep this in mind if you are localizing a cookbook.
  • Passion fruit juice is appreciated enough to be produced and sold; just look for the words parcha if in a Puerto Rican place or maracuyá if in a Mexican one.

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