Thursday, October 10, 2013
Russian Mini Chocolate Bars
Mom's European Food & Deli, $6.99/lb
Soap Lake is a tiny town in central Washington built around a lake long famed for the healing properties of its foamy waters and slimy mud. Modern environmental factors have put a dent in those powers--and in the number of tourists visiting the town's spas and resorts. From the car I saw two going-out-of-business sales, several vacant storefronts, and the empty lot where town boosters had once planned to erect the world's largest lava lamp.
There was no one else in sight when I parked by the public swimming area just a block from downtown, rolled up my pants, and waded into the shallow, slightly effervescent water. There was no one in sight as I stood ankle-deep in mud, creamy and insubstantial as Cool Whip, and wondered what it would be like to live here.
I was starting to get a little spooked when a stroll down main street finally filled in a few of the blanks. As I passed a strikingly well-stocked yarn store, there was a flurry of activity; car after car pulled up and a dozen chatty women got out carrying snacks and projects for the weekly "stitch and bitch."
At the other end of the street, I found Mom's European Deli, a strikingly well-stocked emporium of foods from Russia and the Baltic region--deli staples like meat, cheese, and specialty breads, but also row upon row of sweet snacks. The dozens of individually wrapped hard candies, caramels, and nutty little dark chocolate bars (like Clumsy Bear, Nut Cluster, Kara Kym, above) are sold pick-and-mix style by the pound, as is sesame and sunflower halva, cut to order from huge marbled blocks. There are also sweet drinks, boxed cookies, and bags of confections like zephir, a pastel hybrid of marshmallow and divinity. The cold case is stocked with fresh cakes from Russian bakeries on the east coast, carried back by long-haul truck drivers returning from a New York run.
The beach may no longer be bustling, but an unexpected bounty of beautiful yarn and Russian treats prove that there's still life, creativity, community, and celebration behind Soap Lake's hard-luck facade.
Mom's European Food & Deli
331 Main Ave E
Soap Lake WA