Food and Drink

#TBT The Mexican Mercado

Everytime a television program comes on about Mexico, Mrs P and I make a strict appointment to be seated in front of the screen at the annointed time. The latest show was a series by celebrity chef Rick Stein, The Road to Mexico. We enjoyed it greatly, particularly when the road crossed from the US into Mexico. If you can access the Beeb’s iPlayer from your part of the Continue reading

Mexico City

The Marketplace

I have a book on my bookshelf. A real book, not a Kindle book. It’s a tome on American architecture. I’m too lazy to go dig it out and find it’s name. It’s on my shelf for one reason and one reason only. Somewhere inside is a photograph of the Milwaukee Art Museum. And at the back of the book in the list of credits is my name, telling the reader that I took that photo. It is this photo, in case you’re really interested. It’s my third most viewed photo on Flickr, but alas I only have a 640 pixel wide copy of the original left. What was I paid for allowing my photo to be featured in the book? I didn’t ask for a penny. I just asked for a copy of the book. And it sits on my bookshelf.

I was overjoyed at having a photo published, in a real book. That was the first photo I ever had published. Since then, hundreds of my photos have been used by other websites across the web. A few dozen have been purchased for use by publishers. They can be seen in in-flight magazines, Wall Street Journal web edition, a few other magazines here and there. Getty Images have bought a couple. Getty wanted the picture of the Milwaukee Art Museum once, but I couldn’t get a release form from the museum. Truth be told, I didn’t try. I get paid for photos that are used by commercial publishers these days. The novelty of ‘being published’ wore off quick. I prefer cash.

Getting photos published isn’t an art form. Take thousands of photos, label/tag them accurately and in detail and upload them where they can be seen. No ifs or buts, the best place is Flickr, for a variety of reasons. When I do receive an email from a publisher, it’s 50/50 whether they will offer to pay for it. Some will try the ‘…and we’ll even credit you with your name!…’ approach in the hope that having your photo published is all the reward you could ever ask for. Some take a more professional and formal approach. None have ever opened dialog by naming the price they are willing to pay.  How much is a photo worth? Most offers, when they come, range from $100 to $250, depending on the publisher, the size of the printed image and the quality of the photo.

I was recently contacted by Forbes, who wanted to use a photo from my Mercado Abelardo Rodriguez set. They didn’t ever specify which one. They tried the ‘…and we’ll even credit you with your name!…’ approach. I agreed that they could use my image, for the price of $125. They haggled me down to $100. Alas, they selected another image in the end. They didn’t say why. Maybe it was a better image. Maybe it was just more fitting with their article. Maybe they had more success with the ‘…and we’ll even credit you with your name!…’  line and got it for free. I guess I will never know. Nevermind. It was Forbes Russia anyway, so it’s not like I’d have ever seen a copy of it in the shops.



Borough Market

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+.