I found a recipe I want to try but it calls for Szechuan peppercorns. So at lunch today I headed over to one of the few international markets in Memphis. The place is a wonder, always something new and interesting to discover, if you don't mind the smell of fish long past its prime. It's a true polyglot, where few of the emplyees speak the same language, and fewer still speak English.
But that's ok with me. The more the merrier, I say. Until you're looking for something in particular in this vast and sprawling megastore.
After much searching, I found a package that looked like it contained Szechuan peppercorns, but the English version of the label read pericarpium zanthoxyli. So I thought I would try the customer service desk.
I found a rather lovely Asian woman working the counter, so I asked, do you know if these are Szechuan peppercorns. She looked and said, rather coldly, and in something of a huff, "I don't know. I don't speak the language."
I replied, "Well, but I thought you might know the product." She smiled at that.
So I bought it, because it was so cheap, and it turns out I was right. Confirmed by a Google search.
I have found that although the service may blow, you can't beat the prices. The package I bought was roughly a third the price of online stores. You'll die when you see the price of sesame seed oil. And they have Tupelo honey for what you'll pay for Sue Bee at Kroger. Nearly everything is cheaper, and you don't have to buy in Sam's Club quantities.