love my market

 There’s something to be said for walking out of your apartment, across the street, 50 M ahead and having all the fresh fruit, vegetables, meat and seafood, for your choosing (along with bakeries, fast-food joints and dry goods shops).

On my days off, going to the market in the morning is part of my routine.  It’s so simple… grocery shopping; yet, for me, an above average amount of pleasure is derived from it.  My regular stall keepers all greet me as they see me coming. Friendships and loyalty is formed through the bits and pieces of our life-stories, which we’ve shared during our random conversations over the past few years.

Only a few times have I gotten up early and gone to the market before 8:30. The vegetables are stacked four times higher than what I’m use to. The place is packed with grandmas and grandpas, many still in their pajamas, or some in their traditional Chinese silk pajamas, on their way home from tai chi in the park at sunrise.

The first time I went that early in the morning, the different atmosphere was really surprising: exciting. The vendors reach out over their produce, grabbing the vegetables thrown at them from customers, blindly entering prices on their scale for each type of veggie. You can see the calculator in their mind working away as they swap veggies on and off the scale. Each time stuffing the previously weighed items into a bag. Finally shouting out a total, shoving the standard free items for regulars into their bags, spring onions, and fresh red chilies, tossing over an overflowing bag of vegetables and immediately grabbing the next customer’s veg. Money being thrown down on the displayed veggies. With a free hand change is given, barely without even glancing at who the customer is.

Much too chaotic for my liking. I feel too much pressure to make quick decisions regarding my purchasing options. I enjoy the lull around 10 am. I can browse the stalls at my leisure. Exchange some niceties and laughs with my regular shopkeepers. Learn some names of vegetables which I have yet to remember. See what new crops are being harvested and what’s dying out. Ask where certain things are coming from and pay attention to the prices of certain vegetables. Generally I have no idea how much a Jin of anything is. I can only tell you I pay around 1 yuan for a small head of leafy lettuce, 2 yuan for a large carrot, 2.5 yuan for a red onion, 1 yuan for a small corn on the cob, 1.5 yuan for a head of garlic and a small chunk of Ginger.

Not only am I one of the few foreigners who shops there almost daily (in fact I know, there’s only me and one other girl), but I buy abnormally small portions. They laugh at me when they tell me the price because it’s barely anything. Most grandmas are shopping for a family of 4 + a kid.  Even then, I can’t make sense of the quantities people buy. People buy a couple flats of eggs, 2 dozen/flat, at a time. They have 4 huge bags, each one full of just one type of vegetable. What do you do with 2 dozen cucumbers?

I’m always sure to arrive before lunch break, 12:30 ish (only a third of the vendors are still around, limiting your options). If I don’t get there before lunch, I must wait until after naptime. By four o’clock everything’s back up and running and the second delivery of seafood arrives.

  

To be honest, the fruit here isn’t that great.  The pineapple is good, and the watermelon; however, you have to get it right at the peak of the season.   Mangoes can be great, but it’s hit or miss.  Perhaps sad, considering where we live, but apples and bananas are what’s always in the house.

This became my fruit stand all because of the daughter-in-law.  She always had lemons when everyone else tried to pass off an orange-lemon variety.  For the longest time it was just her.  Her husband was rarely there, and the kids only at home on the weekends.  Lastly, grandpa arrived.  Now it’s only him, 60 years old (I wonder what happened to his wife).  His son is still around, but must have other work.  The daughter in-law and kids have returned to Heilongjiung.

That’s another thing I love about the market.  The market kids.  Friday afternoon all the children of the vendors come home to the market for the weekend.  Playing hide and seek, building forts with the piles of cardboard, running around being kids.  Sitting in the shops on short little stools, doing their homework.  Counting the stacks of 1 yuan bills and mao’s (10 mao=1 yuan).  Oddly, it made me think of summers at the cabin in Point Roberts.  All the cousins around all the time, all we did was play.

Freshly made tofu done in a variety of ways.

The primary root vegetables and whole grains.

My corn girl.  She’s so sweet.

  

  

My vegetable ladies.

   

 

Now that I’ve started cooking meat, I haven’t bought from my chicken man in a while.  He has whole roasted chickens (small, like the ones at Safeway). I’d always buy half of one for about 20 yuan.

My duck guy is next to him.  It’s too bad I didn’t get a shot of him: a cute little grandpa.  Duck’s much cheaper than chicken (and way better tasting).  I’d usually get a quarter of one. Always a bottom quarter.  If my memory serves me well, it’s 16 yuan for one jin.  I always ended up paying around 10 yuan.

 

For the longest time we wouldn’t buy these eggs.  We would quite literally make a point of buying them at a proper supermarket, ones with the exact same stamp as the brown eggs in the photo above.  Oh the paranoia.

0.7 to 0.8 for my white eggs, more expensive than the brown ones, but have a nice looking deep yellow yolk.  Also for sale are duck eggs, quail eggs, 100 year old eggs, and a bunch of other ones… perhaps pheasant and likely goose.

 

  

That stack of flour excites me.

 

 

 

The baozi (steamed bread dumplings) guy.  His wife’s pretty cute.  I tried buying some before they were steamed so that I could freeze them.  They were so confused and just wouldn’t sell them to me in that state.

0.5 mao for ones the size of a golf ball.

 

Not sure why I didn’t take more shots of the seafood.  There’s everything: live and dead fish, crab, shellfish, prawns, squid.

Cheap ugly fish: 10 yuan/jin

Crab: 46 yuan/jin

A variety of clams: 10-12 yuan/jin

Fresh oysters, shucked: 18 yuan/jin

  

Lots of pork.  Usually only one or two goats and cows.

Pork: 16 ~ 24 yuan/jin

I made a point of asking today… for one jin (500g)

Oranges: 3.5

Apples: 6

Bananas: 3

Grapes: 15-23

Cherries: 60 (from the US usually)

Mangoes: 5

Honeydew: 5

Peaches: 18

Corn:1 for small; 1.3 for slightly bigger

Carrots: 3.5

Tomatoes: 5 (and they’re horrible, so pulpy {There is an organic farm which sets up stands around town: beautiful tomatoes})

Bell peppers: 8

Cucumbers: 3.5

Broccoli: 5.5

Cauliflower: 3.5

Cabbage: 1.5-2

Red onion: 2

Zucchini: 2.5

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