Four days before Christmas and the streets in town are bustling. Narrow sidewalks mean
dodging pedestrians, most of whom are oblivious to your presence. Traffic is very busy and many of the streets around the central market are almost impassable mid-day. Of course, there is a bright side: lots of hot women in tight jeans and boots. They like to be stylish here.
I know this because I decided to venture to the central market again today. The colder weather means I need some warmer clothes, plus I’ve wanted to sample the red cauliflower. Judging by how many vendors were selling the huge red and green vegetable at the market, it must be in-season. Of course, there was a variety of vegetables to choose from – tomatoes, potatoes, onions, fennel (there’s a lot of this plant here), zucchini, eggplant (another staple here), a variety of lettuces, spinach. Plus, of course, all kinds of fruits.
I’m getting more comfortable with the market the more I go. The walk is nice, about 3 miles round-trip, and the route takes me by a store where I can buy Jim Beam for less than in the U.S. Plus, if I want, there are several tavola calda (local quickie eateries) on the way, that are inexpensive and, I’m told, offer excellent meals. The crowds in the market are still a hassle, but I’m getting used to being jostled around like a pinata.
The food stalls are amazing, and I wish I could do all my grocery shopping here. But it’s too far to carry a heavy load. Today, however, I did make an exception. First, however, I had to control my urge to buy every beautiful, and very fresh, vegetable I saw and instead head directly to the clothing aisles, where the people were wall-to-wall.
First, I found the stall where I had previously bought a sweatshirt for 3 euro. There are a number of tables in this area where the clothes are just sitting in a rumpled pile. You go through the pile one item at a time, throw what you don’t like aside, while trying to stay out of the way of people trying to get through the narrow aisles. I found another sweatshirt like the previous one, which was odd because nothing in the bins looked the same. Price was again 3 euro.
Next it was on to find the Chinese stall where I bought a long-sleeve shirt previously. Of course, there are a number of such stalls, but through the hustle and bustle, I think I managed to find the exact same one as before. Anyway, found a shirt for 8 euro – and it was time to brave the food stalls.
The busiest stalls in the food area seem to be the ones selling marinated olives and other
marinated vegetables. These stalls often have 5-6 dozen varieties of marinated dishes, many of which I have no idea what they are. It is a challenge passing by these stalls, both because of the crowds five or six deep and because I want to stop and sample everything.
Then, there is the problem of deciding just which vendor you’re going to deal with. All the vegetables look clean and fresh, and interestingly, the prices are consistent from vendor to vendor. In other words, everyone seems to have the same prices. So a small head of cauliflower (actually it’s huge) will cost you 1 euro regardless of which stall you choose. The larger heads cost 1.50 or 2 euro. I bought one of the smaller heads (see photo at top), which should be good for at least four meals.
Before getting the cauliflower, however, I decided to splurge on some seafood. Again, my choice of stalls, as well as the type of seafood, were numerous. Either shrimp or swordfish was the choice.
One stall had large prawns displayed in front for 10 euro a kilo, they looked fresh, so why not? I only wanted half a kilo but I used the wrong word for “half” (medio instead of mezzo). The older man helping me had no idea what I was saying, as he happily scooped way too many shrimp into a container. Finally, I took my forefinger, mimicked a slashing sign across the 10 on the price sign, and he understood. For 5 euro, I received 14 large prawn that should be good for three meals. In fact, I had four for lunch when I returned (sauteed whole in olive oil and garlic, with fresh lemon juice), along with steamed red cauliflower sprinkled with butter and Parmesan, and some fresh bread. Yes, it was delicious. Next time, swordfish.
Weather report: It has turned a bit colder here and today the rains arrived. The skies were clear for my trip to the market but it’s raining now.