T&K Food Market - Westminster
How long has it been since you heard the screeching wail of a band saw grinding through animal bone. If you've been only to Ralphs and Albertsons for your meat, I'm guessing never.
It will be a strange and disturbing din indeed, one reserved for horror movies with Rube Goldberg plots instigated by freaky puppets. To hear one is to be at an "ethnic" grocery store, be it Mexican, or Asian, where the dirty work of actual butchery takes place not behind closed doors, but in your face, full frontal and uncensored.
Though distant at first, you'll hear the unmistakable squeal when you walk through the sliding doors of T&K Food Market in the heart of Little Saigon, where traffic is hectic and parking scarce. Inside the store however, it's more serene, save for the sound of the saw and the PA system which will play some warbly Viet pop when no one is chatting up the specials in Vietnamese.
Above you in this airy, spotless warehouse with skylights and wide aisles like a mini-Costco, there are cameras pointed at you at every turn. You know this because directly in front of the turnstiles, three TV sets are tuned to two dozen closed-circuit camera feeds. It's a not-so-subtle message to shoplifters: "We're watching you and our band saw is sharp."
As you get closer to the butcher, your olfactory senses take over. A fog of death seems to settle around the area. The smell of fresh meat, of sweet blood and fetid offal is thick enough to wade through. These are scents typically locked away under Cryovac and cellophane. Here the odor is airborne. If you were in the African savannah, a breeze that carries it would surely attract predators.
I ask the butcher to cut my chosen pork spareribs into a size that I communicate by holding up the space between two fingers. He nods, and the bones are passed through the saw as though it were butter.
Later, I pay for my butchered bones at a checkout counter which looks like any other, complete with flat screen computer monitors that play commercials along with my tally. But with every beep of every barcode swipe, I still hear the blades wail. I know I'm not at Safeway anymore.
T&K Food Market
9681 Bolsa Avenue
Westminster, CA 92683-5906
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