Does it seem like grocery store clerks are becoming less and less knowledgable of the products they sell? Maybe it’s a language thing since most of them do not speak English as their first language.
But today I thought I would be in luck. I live in the midst of thousands of Latinos and I needed “masa harina” to make empanados de horno for a dinner tomorrow to celebrate the end of our Spanish studies. I’m making Colombian ajiaco in honor of our teacher who is from Bogota and Chilean empanadas to get a taste of where we are going next week.
But back to the missing ingredient. The recipe actually said I could use entirely all-purpose flour, but I always like to use what is called for. So after regretting the disappearance of the local Spanish market down the street, I called Safeway where after being passed to 3 different people, the Hispanic clerk said he had never heard of masa harina. Isn’t that a staple in Latino kitchens?
I was on hold at the Giant for 20 minutes, after which I finally talked to someone who claimed they had it on aisle 6. In the midst of soup-making and making the filling for the empanadas, I raced over to the Giant to find nothing on the shelf with that name. The first two people I asked shook their heads. Then I spotted a very American clerk with red hair and freckles who said the masa harina was supposed to be in the space where the shelf was empty. He went to the stockroom and found exactly what I was there to buy.
I have concluded that you are pretty much on your own when you go grocery shopping these days, unless that is you run into a clerk who understands what you want and is actually willing to help you!