“Is the pot we have even big enough for it?”
This is not a rhetoric question. Have you ever seen choclo, aka Peruvian corn? A kernel is the size of a garlic clove. In fact, I once had a salad in a Peruvian restaurant and I thought there were bits of garlic in it, until I realized it was choclo (which made way more sense).
It’s just not the corn. Every vegetable and every fruit at the Mercado de la Vega looks bigger than what I’m used too. The colours are brighter as well, it seems, but that could be just me being lyrical.
“Gee… could a communist propaganda poster,” Feng notes. “Like ‘Farmers’ daily hard work help us feed our comrades!’”
Okay, so this isn’t just me. Even the meat looks appetizing. Yes, raw meat—ribs, chicken feet, steak, sausages… Gee, what the hell is that? There’s a weird display of dolls, moving on, super creepy. Anyway, now I feel like eating meat and I rarely do.
Vendors don’t even bother doing the usual shouting-and-calling market routine, most are just reading the paper. The produce speaks for itself, you won’t be able to resist buying three kilos of avocados and one of tomatoes—they are that confident.
“Five for 1,000 pesos.”
Feng shakes his head. “I can’t eat five of these giant ears of corn!”
“Can we buy fewer than five?”
“Two for 400.”
In most of Latin America, markets are still central to people’s lives. There are plenty of supermarket chains, all modern, well stocked and fairly aseptic, but where do you go when you only need two eggs and not a carton, five slices of ham and not a pack, one piece of bread and not an entire loaf? To the market, of course, where you’re able to buy just what you need and can afford.
Buying what you need—that’s an interesting concept, one we’re not that familiar with anymore in North America and Europe, lands of bulk groceries. We buy three packs of yogurt because it’s cheaper than just getting one, we buy five boxes of cereals because they’re on special this week, because it’s convenient, because of a deal, because we’ve been brainwashed to, because we can.
I remember how surprised I was when in Guatemala, I saw someone buying a single pencil—not a fancy one, mind you, just your regular cheap graphite pencil, the kind IKEA gives out for free so that you can write down the price tag details of the Böytrebsfgsfwf bookshelf you just fell in love with (plot twist, you’ll never find the right flat box in the warehouse).
This is a part of travelling I enjoy. We only buy what we need, what we can carry, what we can eat.
And you know what? I’m not missing anything.