Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Have you ever had a ripe mango? Peeled it with your teeth, tugging at the leathery skin to reveal the soft, glistening yellow flesh beneath. Digging in, the sticky juice running lazily across your chin, fingers and down towards your elbow as arms held away from your body to let it drip to the ground. The mango is soft and sweet against your tongue, better if it warm from sitting in the sun, the sugars developing, not cloying, just a piece of goodness. Sucking on the seed to get every bit of it off.
Now you might be offended by this description but there is a huge amount of sensory pleasure to be gained from food eaten with your hands. In my family, as children we were fortunate enough to have had access to fruit trees which we plundered with impunity, sometimes eating the unwashed fruit while still up the tree. It was magical, fruit eaten at its peak, not shrink wrapped, under-ripened science specimens from the grocery or quailed from long periods sitting in the blazing sun by the side of the road.
They say that you never miss what you never had, one trip to the market in Tunapuna was enough to awaken all those old memories, before the suit and heels, before eating with your hands was a no-no. Well sometimes depending. Tunapuna market is an interesting place, sorry, no pictures, forgot the camera. It’s now all housed indoors but it used to spill out on to the road and pavements, taking on a life of it's own apart from the chaos that was the Eastern Main Road. For years it existed as a loose amalgamation of stalls knocked out of spare pieces of wood and old corrugated galvanized iron for cover or bags spread out as buffer between the produce and the surface below. A place where farmers from the surrounding districts would come to sell their produce plucked from their gardens in time for market day. It was also inhabited by a host of characters who harked their wares in loud voices “tomatoes, fifty cents a pound. Come here!” The doubles men used to stand outside the gates so that you could get your morning breakfast as you left to go home bag bulging with goodies.
It’s been a really long time since tomatoes were that price and the market is all in the concrete building but the stalls have not changed all that much. You could always buy whatever you wanted in the weekend market, even clothing. The piles of fresh vegetables are all still there but these days it’s also bootleg DVD’s and CD’s and other sundry items. Don't be fooled by the technology, it’s still all cash transactions and surprisingly many of the same familiar faces albeit older.
Threading your way through throngs of people all looking for a bargain, bags slapping their sides, eyes eager. Squeezing an eggplant for firmness, picking up handfuls of peppers, green beans or plantains to be weighed. Rows and rows of canary yellow bananas or the succulent red flesh against pale green of a just cut ripe watermelon. Mouth watering, planning Sunday lunch as you go. Maybe some knobby sweet potatoes with their purple skin lightly coated with dirt as though just pulled up that morning or fresh dark leaved spinach. Mounds of fluorescent green lettuce or crisp watercress continuously sprinkled with water to keep it fresh begging to be taken home.
The meat and fish section removed so that the smells don’t overpower you. Mostly it’s pretty clean and “orderly”, sure, it’s no HiLo, but at every turn there is an adventure in cooking waiting to happen. What’s that odd looking vegetable? Don’t know, ask the vendor and you’ll get a lecture on what it is, how it’s grown and how to cook it. See, you don’t need google all the time.