a love affair

I’ve always loved grocery shopping. I love perusing the aisles, studying the options, dreaming, scheming, imagining. I love picking up the bags and boxes, puzzling over the ingredients, searching for something that I can’t quite find, admiring the novelty ingredients and wondering about the people who eat them. I love being surrounded by mountains of culinary potential. I love that everything in a grocery store centers around one of my very favorite activities: eating. Therefore, it only makes sense that I’d fall hard for the market with its mountains of fresh produce, sacks of dried chilis and beans and coffee, and slabs of meat hanging from hooks.

Market photos are ideal Search and Find games. 
For example, can you find the woman with a basket on her head? 
Can you find the hand-held scales? 
The dog? The pile of broccoli?

Giant orange carrots, some of their green tops still attached. 
A basket full of cilantro and mint. 
Perfect radishes.

 Snails for sale!

Even things that have nothing to do with food intrigue me. The men hawking large plastic bags to protect from the rain or pills for anything that might ail you.  The magician with his tricks and crowd of gawkers. The group of women squatting along the curb nursing their babies. The babies sleeping in empty crates tucked under the tables or right in the middle of the piles of melons and squashes (I am so tempted to point to a baby and inquire how much). The dog fights that never really take off thanks to some old lady with a cane calmly cracking them over the back. The men bent double with enormous sacks of food on their bags, and the women walking erect and regal with baskets of cloth-wrapped steaming tamales on their heads. The bargaining! The loudspeakers! The shouts and laughter! The tinkling of the ice cream man’s bell. The pat-pat-pat of fresh tortillas being made. The smell of fried chicken and raw meat and boiled corn and urine and fresh bread mingling together to create an olfactory sensation that will forever be imprinted on my mind.

The green vegetable in the basket is called guisquil, a squash with a pale green interior. 
(I wonder if it can be prepared like zucchini?)
Can you find the chicken?

Fact: a cloth-draped head keeps you cooler.

My new favorite vegetable: puntos de guisquil. 
To prepare, pull off the tendrils and discard. Separate the leaves from the stalks. 
Chop stalks and treat like chard stems. Use leaves as you would a hearty spinach.

Monday morning, the sun was shining, so I stuffed my camera into a shoulder bag and walked into town. I entered the crowded market and immediately slipped into a store where I squatted down, dug out my camera, and discreetly snapped a few pictures.

The big building on the right is the market complex.

Note the woman in pink retrieving her money.

Once I got my bearings, I approached a couple women sitting on the curb outside the door. I asked them about their wares (banana leaves, squash vines, and something else I’m not familiar with) and if I might take a picture of them.

banana leaves

There was a space beside them, so I sat down and we commenced to talking. Turns out, one of the women was a Mennonite, and the other one had wanted to go to Bezaleel to study but wasn’t able to make it work out. We talked about food, school, and life in general, and I snapped a bunch of pictures of whatever struck my fancy.


  • Anonymous

    What wonderful sights, sounds and smells! I agree – thank you for bravely taking your camera to market so that we could experience it with you! It would be a truly divine place for someone who loves food as much as I do. I also was wondering about the lace type shirts many of the women are wearing. They're lovely. Vicki

  • pam

    Loved it! The little girls blouse with the ? fringe? Is that tatted or locally manufactured? I noticed a woman with a whit blouse/wrap that had the same feature.
    I wondered too about the tendrils on your new vegetable. I know the tendrils on catsbriar can be steamed and seasoned with butter and wondered if the same could be done for those?
    Great post.

    • Jennifer Jo

      I checked with our house help re your questions, and best as I understand it, all the fabrics, blouses and skirts, are machine made, though they can be handmade, too. At least, that's what I think she said…

      When asking different people how to cook with the vines, they were all very clear about pinching off the tendrils and throwing them out. I don't know why. However, I think "steamed tendrils with butter" sounds very gourmet!

  • Melodie Davis

    A Mennonite! How cool is that. The mercado in Barcelona was a wondorous thing–not surprised this is where you groove. 🙂

  • Kathy ~ Artful Accents

    Wonderful pictures! I especially like the one of the cloth draped mother with her adorable little girl.

  • Margo

    oh, thank for bravely taking your camera to market! Such a treat on this end. I love the photo of the ladies and child.

    • Jennifer Jo

      They are used to wrap tamales before steaming them. I've also seen them used as "wax paper cooling racks"—they pour hot peanut candy on them to cool. There are probably dozens of other uses, but I don't know of them yet.

    • Mountaineer

      Pygmies in The Congo and Rwanda wrap hot coals in leaves and carry them to new living locations. Could banana leaves be used likewise?

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