Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Market Diaries: skipping breakfast

Last night you were up late, reading Dr. Frenkel’s 1856 account of his travels to Jerusalem, written in antiquated Hebrew, strange and sweet. Now it’s nearly ten and you had planned this to be a market day. No time for porridge, then; you get ready to leave, put on your grubby market trousers, and fill you panniers with empty plastic bags. A look through the peep hole before you step out, roll your bike, go.

You cut into the secret gardens, by the abandoned warehouse, through the parking lot: when you reach the gates you put your florescent orange jacket away. In the market, visibility has its disadvantages; attracting attention is unwise. You never know how the Market Authority feels about scavenging this morning.

You start the tour and find your breakfast: Organic bananas from the Dominican Republic. One will be good for now, the rest for later. As you eat you notice the boxes of Tunisian dates in the silver metal bins. Why are they there? You turn the boxes but can’t find a Best by date. Taste one, and two, and three: they’re fine. ‘Is there anything wrong with the dates?’ but the worker from the warehouse just shrugs his shoulders. And so you become the lucky owner of three kilograms of organic dates.

Now come kale, leeks and fennels; Italian pears, more bananas, radicchios, a small bag of wild mushrooms, and the best find, five Brazilian papayas. You forgot to bring elastic bungee ropes, and your panniers are full, so this will have to be it for today. You bid farewell to the squashed Israeli avocadoes, to the boxes of mandarins. No herbs, you think; there was a time you used to find coriander every week. Is there a global coriander crisis? Or perhaps coriander is an early morning commodity, disappearing before 11am? The mysteries of the market keep you pondering as you cycle out.

An hour later, you are sitting in your little courtyard, eating rice, fried smoked tofu and wild mushrooms, cooked with garlic, olive oil and white wine (as Marcel advised, you let it almost completely evaporate). You savour on the sky, the air: the cold does not bite. Global warming, the best antidepressant.

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