This Miami Supermarket Chain Makes Me Feel Like Myself
First-generation Americans tend to share a common experience in their search for place and identity. While Miami is Hispanically diverse, with its large Cuban, Nicaraguan, Venezuelan, and Colombian communities, the age-old cultural limbo persists; as a native Miamian with Nicaraguan immigrant parents, I've never personally felt either quite American or quite Latina enough. Growing up, assimilation for my parents meant strictly shopping at our local Publix. At home, the Latin dishes that my parents prepared were simplified and presented in Americanized ways: lasagna was served with a side of tostones, quesadillas were replaced with queso blanco grilled cheeses, and on Thanksgiving, we ate ham with pork stuffing.
For my parents, leaving behind Hispanic grocery stores was a consequence of progress in their grand vision of fulfilling the American dream. But for me, food has always been a way to connect to my culture. As soon as I could make my own decisions, I began shopping at Sedano's. It was a delicious rebellion, and one that filled the empty hole of place and identity that I felt.
Founded in 1962, Sedano's opened as a neighborhood family store that has since grown to 35 locations in Florida, reflecting the growth of the Hispanic population in the state and across the country. Their early foothold in the market and dedication to tradition helped establish Sedano's as the ultimate Hispanic supermarket, paving the way for similar brands in the area, such as Bravo and Presidente. Companies like Publix and CVS have opened Latin-themed brands—Publix Sabor and CVS Pharmacy y más—to keep up with the ever-growing demand.
At first glance, Sedano's looks just like any other supermarket; however, upon closer inspection, it becomes clear that these stores are something special. The labels are in Spanish, and the checkout lanes feature Spanish-language magazines, La Bayamesa coconut macaroons, cajeta de leche, and snack-size plantain bags. Latin pop plays from the speakers, and the smell of freshly baked Cuban bread wafts throughout the store. The produce section goes beyond onions, tomatoes, and strawberries with an incredible assortment of aloe products; a variety of tuber vegetables such as malanga, yuca, and boniato; and tropical fruits such as guava, tamarind, and mamey sapote.
In the meat department, pork takes center stage in all cuts and forms, from tubs of rendered pork fat to solid fat strips, pork loin, leg, skin, neck bones, shoulder, chorizo, and smoked ham. Over in the dairy aisle, I've gained an unofficial degree in Latin cheese studies. Meanwhile, the frozen foods section is strictly reserved for Latin foods and juices: fruit pulp, empanada dough, tamale shells, Venezuelan tequeños, arepas, cachapas, and Colombian pandebono. Venezuelan and Colombian foods were later additions to my taste index, and for that expansion, I'm thankful to Sedano's, which has been my guide.
On busy weeks, I've stocked up on comforting prepared foods such as ropa vieja and rice and beans, snacks such as croquetas and empanadas, and indulgent desserts such as arroz con leche and the latest dulce de leche cake creation. And no matter how many times or locations I visit, walking up and down the aisles still gives me a thrill.
My Shopping List
Café La Carreta Coffee
No Latin kitchen is complete without an espresso maker and strong coffee; La Carreta is my go-to local Miami brand.
Galletas Puig Delicias Maria & Chocolate
This traditional thin, round Spanish biscuit is slightly sweet; my favorite version is the one covered in chocolate.
I use both fresh and frozen yuca from Sedano's; it's a staple of the Latin kitchen.
Bon Bon Bum Lollipops
Most lollipops are called Bon Bon Bum regardless of the brand! They're from Colombia and come in tropical flavors.
Mambi Pork Cracklings
Use these to make Vigorón; they add a crunchy, salty contrast.
The produce section at Sedano's is intoxicating to me, regardless of which location. If there's fresh guava, I'll always take some home.