"the trusted voice of teens who travel"
December 23rd, 2011
The excitement that thrums through the air in every market, no matter where in the world we find it, the scents of the spices and fruits, the different sounds accompanying each location! Everywhere it is the same, but yet no two markets are ever very similar. Three of my favorite markets are found in Italy (of course) Mexico, and Tunisia.
La Mercad in Mexico City is the largest traditional food market in the entire city. It has been active since the early colonial period when traders first arrived from Spain. It is a permanent market, with protection from the elements. Everything Mexican is sold here. Tall stacks of freshly grown vegetables fall over each other on tables crammed tightly together. Traditional candies are on hand, as well as fresh meat. Don’t know what kind of meat it is? Look for the head of the animal it came from, gruesomely displayed on the counter, often without it’s skin. I would not recommend visiting the meat section if you happen to be vegetarian. You can also find handmade toys, of various quality, in another section. Hungry? Don’t worry! Some of the cheerful Mexican women own small food stands, serving traditional homemade dishes of pollo pibil, with rice and vegetables. Anything you can see being cooked is safe, but do not eat the veggies unless they’re cooked. They might have been washed in the city water, which will make you very sick and uncomfortable for a few days.
There are multiple markets in Tunisia, but the one I love the most is in the relatively large town of Hammam Sus. I was able to live there for three months, and spent Christmas there. This market is filled with the bleating of goats, the squacks of chickens, and the patter of feet as small Arab children chase each other around. Tall, beak-nosed Arab men hawk their wares, and women pick along the large baskets of spices. Safron is sold extremely cheaply here, a few cents for a bag. In secluded corners, clouds of aromatic smoke pour from the noses and mouths of men who’s glittering eyes peer out at us, the outsiders. Heavily veiled women walk past with baskets of live chickens and turkeys precariously balanced on their heads. It is here that you can find the largest and most delicious carrots I have found anywhere. They are sweet and juicy, but the thing I love the most about them is their color. They are a bright, beautiful, purple!
Italy has so many wonderful markets, I have not been able to chose a favorite, but I love them all. These markets are immaculately clean. Well-tempered Italian men and women shout at each-other, laughing and humming bits of music as they sell a delightful variety of cheeses, fruits, pastries, breads, and vegetables. I remember one time when my dad met an Italian woman and her husband who were selling truffles. These mushrooms are extremely expensive, and the only way to find them is to train pigs to locate them and dig them up. They have never been successfully farmed. The woman was so generous that when my Dad told her he’d never had any she immediately gave him part of one! Most of the Italians at the markets I’ve been to have been just as kind and generous as this lady, and every Italian market is sure to be a ton of fun!