The Winchester Farmer’s Market in suburban Memphis is a vinyl-tiled, fluorescent-lit showcase of pluralism, a daily exposition of the diversity that America promises. Ethnicities and countries mix and match in this grocery the size of a small-town Walmart owned by Korean-American James Lee. Stacked like sandbags on a levee, burlap pillows of rice define the center aisle. Freezer cases yield whole Egyptian crawfish sold under a Cajun banner. Tins of Argentina corned beef, popular in the Philippines, abut ranks of Hot Titus sardines, packed in Morocco, and Geisha mackerel, wild-caught in Thailand.
Unlike those at a traditional grocery, the aisles here reflect the porosity of international borders. Nothing is labeled foreign. No ethnic section ghettoizes goods or people. West India and India share a longitude in this Pangaea, where second-generation Vietnamese Americans shop for Florida sugarcane stalks, and first-generation Mexican Americans stock up on tubs of Tennessee-rendered manteca. That approach is more than inclusive; it’s good business. The Census Bureau predicts that minorities will make up nearly 57% of the population by 2060.
Winchester Farmer’s Market is unexceptional. The nation is rife with markets like this one, where a walk down the aisles reveals our demographic destiny. Amid political talk of building walls, Winchester shoppers and their kith around the country cross borders daily.
Edge is a writer and the director of the Southern Foodways Alliance