from market to table

Friday morning, my husband and I walked into town. It was raining. We were both wielding umbrellas which made companionable walking a bit of a challenge. No one lost an eye, though.

Once in town, we went our separate ways: him to pick up a box at the bus station and me to squeeze my way through the market and juggle money, list, umbrella, and big heavy bags of produce.

Fridays have become my main market day. We stop by the market for necessities on a daily basis, but even so, by the end of the week the refrigerator is pretty bare. All the vegetables and fruit that we eat come into our home in raw form and only as much as we can carry comfortably in our hands or haul in a taxi. In other words—and I’ve said this before—there is no stockpiling bushels of potatoes, canning up jars of spaghetti sauce and peaches, or freezing bags of broccoli and blueberries.

This means there is nothing to pull from when making a meal. You want a green vegetable? Then buy a pound of green beans, snap them, and cook them up. Some fruit to round out a meal? Get a pineapple and chop it up.

It’s taken me about seven months to get used to this new form of buying and cooking. I think I’m finally catching on.

Wednesday and Thursday are busy days at Bezaleel, leaving me with hardly any time to cook, let alone forage for food. So come Friday, the market is a priority.

Here’s what I picked up last week: 9 oranges, 3 pounds of potatoes, 4 pounds of apples, 1 bunch of squash leaves, 1 pineapple, 1 pound of onions, 2 pounds of tomatoes, 2 starfruit, 1 bag of tostados, 2 carrots, 1 cucumber, 1 bunch of cilantro, 10 mandarin oranges, 3 limes, 2 tree tomatoes, 3 peppers, 1 pound of green beans, 4 peaches, 1 tayuyo, and 1 ounce of dried chilis,

After the kids got home from school, I spent the next several hours getting the food a step closer to being edible. I made a chili sauce, cut up a carrot for the kids’ snack, stewed the squash leaves into a soup (more on that later), cooked a pot of rice, and roasted some onions, peppers, carrots, zucchini, and a giant head of broccoli for the supper’s stir-fry. I also made a zucchini cake.

Saturday morning, the cooking storm continued with bread, a big pot of dried beans with onions, garlic, and dried chilis, pie crust (so an apple pie is just that much closer to being a reality!), and starfruit smoothies. I also put away the granola I had started the morning before. Oh, and there were breakfast pancakes, too.

There is still a lot of work to do to finish readying the market purchases for consumption: cutting up the pineapple (a simple task, but one I hate), that pie, snapping the green beans, and figuring out a plan for the potatoes, peaches, cilantro, limes, tomatoes, cucumbers, and carrots. But at least I’ve made a dent. The new week will begin with a well-stocked refrigerator—full of both cooked food and produce—and an overflowing fruit bowl.

For sure, I think longingly of my freezers back home. Two big ones filled with containers of soup and pesto, bags of broccoli and peas and corn, jars of meatballs and roasted tomatoes, boxes of strawberries and applesauce! Just thaw, heat, and eat! What a novelty! What a luxury!

However, when I leave here I’ll probably miss the abundance of fresh food and the simplicity of having all my cooking options laid out right before my eyes on the concrete patio floor, no secrets, no surprises.

Neither style is easy. Both take work. In Virginia, my summers are crammed with growing, harvesting, and putting up. In Guatemala, I do it from scratch (minus the growing, thank goodness) on a daily basis.

What’s your method for getting fruits and veggies to the supper table? Do you buy lots of produce on a weekly basis, year round, cooking it up as you go? Or do you prefer to stockpile for quick meals?


  • Margo

    Well, fascinating. As I read along, I was thinking that, yes, I'm a market shopper so I do it mostly your Guatemalan way. But not so fast: at least a few meals every week are pantry/freezer meals supplemented with fresh food. But yes, most of the fresh food that comes into our house is hauled home by cart by moi.
    However, I am determined to eat through the preserved food more this winter instead of continuing to buy fresh stuff at market. It's just that market is 2 blocks away – I ran down there for milk today and came back with tomatoes, cukes, and chocolate, too. . .

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