Sunday, June 27, 2010

To Market, To Market

Nearly every Saturday—if I can actually manage to wake up in time—I make it a point to walk to my nearby farmers’ market. My boyfriend and I lace up our shoes, grab Odie’s leash and head off toward the park for our weekly walk. It’s become one of my favorite rituals.

Once we’re there, it’s hard for me to peel myself away from all of the stands and, well, mainly, the food. And as guilty as I feel for having Eliot and Odie wait for me outside the market (dogs aren’t allowed in the main shopping area), I can’t help but want to take my time—which, much to their chagrin, I often do. It gets even tougher when Odie looks like that (see above right). I love examining each and every vegetable in season, tasting the free fruit samples, gawking at all of the fresh flowers and deciding what to buy for our brunch, from pupusas and tamales to currywurst and chocolate croissants. (What can I say? It’s a pretty eclectic farmers’ market.)

It’s no different when I travel. If anything, my desire to visit local markets only grows—and not just because I love to shop and eat. Visiting the market really does give you a better understanding of the destination you’re in by introducing you to that culture, and in the best ways possible—through your senses. I’ll never forget that first whiff of stinky tofu that I mistook for open sewage in Shanghai. Or how Tokyo’s Tsukiji Market was the only place in Japan where people were actually sort of impolite, cursing under their breath at the ignorant and dumbfounded tourists (ahem, me) standing in their way of a much-needed sale. In Hong Kong, I was a total sucker for beautiful jade necklaces and silks that were cool to the touch—so much so that I nearly tipped the baggage weight limit on my way home. In Tel Aviv's Carmel Market, I was awestruck by the rich colors of so many different spice stands. And in Honolulu, I blissfully ate my way through the Kapiolani Community College Farmers’ Market which, not so secretly, is my favorite farmers’ market thus far.

No matter where you travel to, there’s always something new to discover at the market and, with that, here are some of my favorite discoveries…

I never knew squash blossoms could look so pretty until I saw them at the market in Amsterdam.

Even the tiny little farmers’ market in Hoorn, the Netherlands, was bustling on an early Saturday morning.

I seriously doubted whether or not this man would be able to fit into his mini mobile bakery.

I loved how locals in Strasbourg, France, toted their dogs wherever they went, especially at the market…

And how you could even buy Asian specialties there, too, from beef and curry-filled samosas to…

…Chicken egg rolls.

Also, who doesn’t love a bouquet of fresh flowers?

In Tel Aviv, I was reminded that I was in the land of olives…


...and gummy candy—lots of gummy candy.

I also realized I wasn’t the most inconspicuous of photographers.

And I was perplexed by this silly and hideous-looking—yet intriguing—contraption: a visor with built-in shades that retract up and down. (Photo © Cindy Sosrotuomo)

Another realization: Infomercial sales strategies will work pretty much everywhere.

Kyoto’s Nishiki Market is another favorite market: I loved seeing so many different types of vegetables and snacks on display…

Watching folks pounding fresh mochi…

…and taking in the aroma of freshly roasted chestnuts.

However, I didn’t even want to guess what these might be, but I have my suspicions.

Tokyo’s Tsukiji Market was overwhelming, but in a good way; I’ve never seen so much ahi before in my life.

And although the tuna auction was closed to the public on the day that I went…

I still saw plenty of big tuna throughout the market.

But, if there’s anything I’ve realized about what I love most about markets, it’s not only discovering new things—but savoring them on the spot—just like my fellow travel writer, Margery, did when she two-fisted a fried-green tomato with a Portugese sausage in Honolulu.

Now that’s a market experience with traveling for, don’t you think?

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