I remember it quite clearly. I was nine years old, handing in my homework to my teacher, Mr. Basini, whilst my peers eagerly discussing what they’d written about. The assignment had been to write about your favourite place – some had picked holiday destinations (Disneyland being the clear winner in terms of “wow” factor), others had picked the home of their favourite football club. One of my friends was horse mad so her favourite place was a local stable where she was allowed to ride and groom the horses.
And me? I’d written about a small, rather unassuming shop located just over 30 miles from my home in Port Talbot. No toys were contained within its walls, no games and no fancy gadgets. Yet to my nine-year-old self, Wally’s Deli was heaven. I still feel like that today.
What you have to understand is I was no ordinary child, and this is no ordinary shop. Coming from an Italian family, my prime concern growing up was where my next meal was coming from. On the occasions when I was taken out for a meal, I would plan my pudding before I’d even eaten my starter. Like most children, Christmas was an amazing time of year. Unlike most children, I was more excited by a visit to Wally’s than the idea of a fat man arriving down my chimney. I’d watch my mother as she stood at the counter, pointing to strange cured sausages and pungent smelling cheeses, preparing for the feast.
The first thing that hits you, as you wander down the arcade, is the smell, that heady mix of spices that grabs you by your nostrils and forcibly pulls you into the shop. Once inside it’s a treasure trove of ingredients from all over the world – South Africa, Poland, Japan and Thailand, all considered very exotic to a child who’d not ventured further than the Mediterranean. It also highlighted Cardiff’s multicultural identity – a specialist shop for us immigrants at a time when pasta came in only a few principle shapes – noodles, bows, twists or tubes, and the only salami I had seen at a supermarket was of the bright pink Danish variety.
Over time the shop has grown, as have I. I took great delight in introducing my friends to the shop, especially those missing comforting tastes from curious lands across the sea. I still love shopping there, and can often be found just browsing the aisles and breathing in that heavy scent, feeling like I’m home.
Nicola Tudor is a Cardiff-based food blogger. She loves sushi, is slightly fanatical about felines and tweets far more than is necessary. For the past four years she has blogged under the name Cardiff Bites and has contributed to Your Cardiff and The Guardian. You can follow her on Twitter @cardiffbites. She currently lives in Canton.
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