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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.