Bringing popular souvenirs from a country back home is as much a tradition for travellers as clicking a selfie at some Instagrammable joints in the country.
On the last day of my holiday in New York, I realized I had not bought a single piece of souvenir yet. Since my flight was in the late evening, I planned to check out a few souvenir shops in the morning itself. It was one of the simplest tasks anyway.
Set with this thought, I quickly had my breakfast and started following Google maps for this popular souvenir store called Grand Slam New York.
I reached the store and looked at the display, and I instantly decided to buy Statue Liberty snow globes. It was a popular souvenir. As I went up to the snow globe section inside the store, I got a call from my Mother.
“Have you packed your stuff properly? Have you booked the cab to the airport?”, she bombarded me with questions just like any mother would do.
“Yes mom, I have pre-booked the cab already. Right now, I am buying souvenirs. Will five snow globes be enough to give to our relatives?” I asked my mom, as she would have reminded me of anyone I had skipped.
“Five is fine. But what about your cousins and friends?”
“Oh! I am going to get the NYC clothing for them. They will love it. I will call you once I am back in the hotel”.
Saying this, I hung up and moved my hand towards the globe.
Zabars, A Unique Store
“Do you want to buy a little uncommon but great souvenir for your loved ones? An old kind lady intervened. I looked at her and realized she was Clara, staying at my hotel. Clara used to travel solo during the day as her husband was busy in his business meetings in the city. I remember she had told me that it was her seventh time in the city.
“Yes, but I don’t have time to search for one and…”
“I will help you with that. But, don’t go for the same old souvenirs. I am sure your friends can get these t-shirts from other traveler friends as well”. She was indeed making so much sense.
“Ummm. Suggest what else I can get. I wanted a memento for myself too.”
Clara asked me if I mind walking with her for 10 minutes as the store where she wanted to take me was at a walking distance. It was my fifth day in the city, and I had fallen in love with walking. Also, strolling with a stranger in a foreign country is so insightful as you get so much time to talk about each other’s country and culture.
“Here we are, let us go inside the store”. Clara pointed towards the shop.
The store read as “Zabar’s”, and it smelled like a bakery. After we got in, I followed Clara, and she took me straight to the cookie section.
“I suggest you buy these black and white cookies for your people”.
“What is so special about these cookies?” I exclaimed.
I bought a piece to taste. As I was about to take a bite, Clara stopped me and said, “Test the cookie before buying. The cookie shouldn’t be cookie-like, and icing should be hard enough to withstand a tap with the back of a spoon but soft enough not to flake off.” I was surprised at the level of her knowledge. I found it utterly delicious. I was wondering how come I never knew about this tasty thing. But I was sure Clara would enlighten me with some information.
“The black-and-white cookie has, for all of the time, been an iconic and proud delicacy of New York City. It has been a symbol of all that is great about the Big Apple, and as Jerry Seinfeld (the famous philosopher) once said, “Nothing mixes better than vanilla and chocolate. And yet, still, somehow, racial harmony eludes us. If people would only look to the cookie, all our problems would be solved.” While the doughnut might look like a half-black and half-white doughnut, it’s a half dark chocolate cake dough, with Valrhona chocolate glazed doughnut on one half, and a white chocolate dough with glaze doughnut on the other.”
“Are you an agent of Zabar’s by any chance” I joked with her.
“Wow! You guessed it right!” Clara added to my joke. “Do you think there could be any souvenir better than this? I am sure your friends and family would neither have tasted nor heard about these cookies.”
Boxes of a Unique Souvenir
I thanked Clara for accompanying me to Zabar’s. I got a few boxes of cookies packed for myself, and we walked back to our hotel.
I thanked Clara for her help and promised to keep in touch with her. She wished me a happy journey as I sat in my cab. I was quite delighted to have bought something nobody would have even thought of.
Not to mention, I kept aside a box of six cookies for my flight.
Written by: Anukrati Dosi
Anukrati is a travel and hotel blogger and the author of the blog www.bulbulonthewing.com. A total hodophile, she spends her free time seeing as much of the world as she can. She has travelled to 10 countries so far. Being an avid reader and researcher, she also designs customized travel itineraries professionally.