I love going to the market.
I am not sure why I am drawn to these places wherever we go. Maybe it’s because fresh vegetables are scarce when we are at sea. Or because I love trying new foods. Maybe it’s because I like supporting local people. Maybe it’s because I can live without meat but not without crunchy fruit and vegetables. Or, maybe it’s because in the chaos of traveling, disconnected from family, friends and country a trip to the market always feels familiar.
Whatever the reason markets are a favourite spot of mine. They are a great place to people watch, to get a real glimpse of the place that I am visiting and, of course, the only place to get fresh fruit and vegetables.
In Fiji, like most places we’ve been, Saturday is Market Day. Although the municipal market is open everyday of the week Saturday is when at it’s biggest and it’s best. People come from the surrounding towns, villages and islands to buy and sell fruits, vegetable and handmade goods. Often the people from far away will arrive in the city on Thursday and stay until end of Saturday. The permanent cement building in the center of Lautoka City is not big enough to house the influx of vendors, so the market overflows into the surrounding parking lot and courtyard and sprawls onto the sidewalks. Instead of the tables that are inside people outside spread plastic table cloths and old flour sacks on the ground and string up tarps with elaborate labyrinths of string for shade. It is shoulder to shoulder negotiating the cramped isles, often times getting pushed past your intended stop by the flow of people so that you have to double back when you find a break in the line of bodies.
Things are sold by size, in groups or heaps, with very few items actually being sold by weight. Items are stacked neatly and with care, rearranged as things are sold so that each display always looks well tended; organization amidst the chaos. But there is no spilling up a pile, no getting just 6 eggplant instead of all 12, even if you offer to pay the same price. Which makes shopping for one sometimes difficult. I am often struggling under the weight of an over stuffed shopping bag, both for this reason and because everything always looks so appetizing.
This week I splurged on a cauliflower and a couple jars of homemade jam, one mixed fruit and one bitter tangerine marmalade. I bought a breadfruit, a starchy vegetables that grows on trees throughout the tropics (big green orb behind the cauliflower), to make some gnocchi as I’ve been eating a lot of rice recently. I also bought three heaps of tomatoes, about 3kgs, and some passionfruit (purple and yellow in the front) to make some relish or chutney now that they are both cheap. The knobbly yellow things are local lemons and “white carrots” are long radishes. I already had lettuce, carrots and green peppers in the fridge, or you’d see them in the mix too.
My haul this weekend cost $32, including $8 for the jams. That’s not quite $20 CAD/AUS. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday morning!
I admit that I got a little carried away and I will be doing a fair bit of munching this week, but how can you resist?