Mexican communities have several centre points around which society revolves. Men can be found in cantinas. Women at the market. When they come together it’s at the church. But this post is about the mercado. Mexico City is full of them. Permanent markets, historic markets, illicit markets and the many weekly markets that spring up on a certain day of the week. I loved going to the market. The meat, fruit and veg was always fresh, tasty and inexpensive. The supermarkets, for us, were just for tinned goods, toilet rolls, detergents and boxes of cereal. Their fruit, veg and meat never beat the market produce.
It’s different in England. We once had thriving street markets. I have distant memories of going to the market in Greenford, London with my grandmother. But the bulk of my market experience came when I left London and settled in Dorset in the mid-90’s. My first job down here was picking strawberries. It got me out of the house. I got fed on the job. If I’d earned more than it cost to catch the bus there and back, I might have done more than just one day.
In the strawberry field I filled two types of punnet. All the freshest, biggest and tastiest strawberries were to go into the big punnets. The supermarkets would get these. The smaller punnet was for the small, discoloured or slightly rotten produce. They go to market. That’s how street markets work here. They sell substandard rubbish that a shop wouldn’t touch. That’s why most markets here have shrunk or disappeared all together. It’s a shame. But not a surprise.
There are still some good food markets here though. In rural areas you’ll find farmers markets where local producers sell their local produce to local people. For a premium. In urban areas there are also successful markets. I visited one in London last Saturday. I went with Mrs P to Borough Market near London Bridge. Borough Market is a real grand daddy of the market world. It can trace its roots back nearly a thousand years. One claim (that is promoted by the market itself) would have the market celebrating it’s one thousandth birthday in 2014.
I’m sure the market has changed a lot since the first stalls were set up. And they continue to roll with the times and still do a roaring trade. The place was packed to the rafters when we got there. They’ve survived by adapting and doing something the supermarkets aren’t so good at. There’s an atmosphere there. There’s plenty of samples to taste. The sellers know their stock. And their stock is different. You’ll find all sorts of meats, from steak to kangaroo. Artisan cheeses. Hot curries cooking in enormous pans. Rabbit and pheasant. International stalls. And stalls with uniquem artistic kitchenware.
We did a little shopping. We sampled a couple of empanadas from an Argentine stall. And a steak sandwich from a stall next door. The former was nice, the latter not much so. I wish I’d had more time, money and stomach space to sample more. But there’ll be a next time, don;t you worry. I’m going back to get some fresh bread, cheese and pickles. Till then, here’s some photos. Click here for Flickr and here for Google+.