Tuesday, March 25, 2014

I'm in the Market(Days)

In case you are not hip to the name, Oaxaca is both a city and a state in the country of Mexico. Throughout the State numerous villages have weekly market days, also know as a tianguis. 

The tianguis is very important to those living nearby as they give an opportunity to buy things one cannot produce oneself and sell the things one has too much of.

The tianguis also give an opportunity to sell things only the tourist might need or want.

There are many imported items infiltrating the markets these days, but for the most part everything is made by hand, locally.

You name it, you will find it at the market. Don't see it, just ask a local and they will direct you to where it is located. A cool thing about Mexicans: they don't actually tell you where it is. They take you to where it is. Often it is a shop that is owned by a cousin and they wait to make sure you got what you needed. 

Many stalls specialize in a single product or line of products. For those unaware, tocina is Spanish for bacon. Tocineria is a bacon shop.

Every butcher A) is the only place open at daybreak (very little is open before 9am), B) lacks refrigeration and C) sells massive amounts of chorizo. Many will grill them up for you over charcoal.

The proprietor of this stall insisted that all his puppets worked perfectly. All purchases came with a proven performance before the deal was done. I thought it a great sales pitch. A campesina puppet dancing to electronica seemed odd to me but the local kids sure were mesmerized.

Oaxaca is known for its cheese. They make three basic kinds with many variants. The Oaxacan string cheese is the most popular. It is now available in most store in America. String cheese is a modern kid's snack but it has been around for a long time. I love this cheese. It is salty and fresh tasting and so fun to unwind directly into your mouth. 

Flowers have a strong presence in every market we visited. They are plentiful, vibrant, and cheap enough to splurge on for the room. I seriously doubt they are flown into these villages from Kenya.

Fruit is alway plentiful at any tianguis. Fruit is often sliced into a cup or bag for easy take away. Sometimes you find them on a stick. Saying no to the chili powder usually applied at purchase is highly frowned upon. 

It looks like coconut but it is not. I could not understand the actual translation. It is sweet and starchy. 

Talk about sweet. This watermelon was breed for eating not being shoved into a truck or rail car to be delivered to your local grocery store two weeks later. After a couple of days this watermelon would be a puddle in the shipping crate.

All of what you see does not keep very well. It is picked, you buy it, eat it, and buy fresh again. Baja Fresh my ass, this is the real freshy fresh.

These were the stinkiest dried fish I have ever come across. I could not get a translation of what they were except sign language for "funny how much they stink".

I mentioned earlier that each stand specializes. This stall is a bean stall. They sell all the ingredients needed to cook your beans. Just add water. 

Chili peppers. What can I say about chili peppers? You probably have seen the bumper sticker "it's a jeep thing, you wouldn't understand" (Not that I think much of jeeps produced after 1956) Chili peppers are a lot like the bumper sticker. We brought back about 4 kilos of 7 different kind. We use them A LOT! 

This green pottery is from Santa Maria Atzompa. It is really cheap there. You find it at every market throughout the State. Even out side the town it is made in, it is still very cheap. It is intended for use not to be put on a shelf. We have a lot to use. 

Any guess on what these items are? The ladles are rather obvious as are the rolling pins. The tools to the right… any guess? They are a molinillo used to make Oaxacan hot chocolate. I was trying to find a video for you to see how it works. Unfortunately, I am only finding Americans using them incorrectly. Starbucks devotees who are impressed with the foam on their latte would be blown away with how this tool froths it up.

AH, MY FAVORITE MARKET STALL!!!! The mezcal stand. 
For those unfamiliar, I will attempt to describe what mezcal is. Most know what tequila is(Jose Cuevo is not tequila it is fermented corn syrup so forget what you learned in high school). Tequila is made from what most call a cactus(however a succulent, a cactus it is not) called the blue hubber agave. Mezcal is made from a maguey instead of an agave. They look very similar but they grow at very different altitudes. The heart of the maguey is roasted in a large pit using a wood fire. The hearts are then crushed and the juice is fermented. Once fermented it is them distilled. The smoke, from the pit is imparted into the flavor of the spirit. You do not get drunk drinking mezcal, you get high. You also do not get a hang over from drinking too much mezcal. You will however get into big trouble if you drink too much because you will do things you never thought you would.
Every seller of this divine spirit wants your business. They will let you try every single distiller they represent. As long as they think they have you on the line, they will pour. The key is to look and act as if you are going to make a purchase. After trying a couple, you want to buy the entire inventory. 


Mary Rayme said...

All of it, very cool. This looks like a great place to visit. Thanks for the pics, this is quite exotica from the viewpoint of Appalachia.

Lance said...

Nice post Frank. Almost like being at the market!

YMGW said...

A post on doors, followed by one on mezcal at the market. Bring on Aldous Huxley. Great posts Frank.