It’s that time of the week again, we are out of food and I make my weekly pilgrimage to the grocery store. The art of cooking begins with the shopping experience. Picking the right fresh produce to the best cut of meat is a skill that quite honestly took me years to acquire. Nothing compare to the crunch of a fresh carrot to the pungent smells of dried fish. My excursions typically starts just as the sun is coming up in the morning at my local farmers market. The merchants have just finished setting up at the stalls are packed with fresh goodness right from the farm. I guess I love this environment because it reminds me so much of the markets of my childhood in Africa.
The markets are open air with numerous merchants hawking different goods. I remember, as a child looking forward to food shopping day with my mom. We would get up before dawn to get to “odo eran” a local slaughter area where we would purchase freshly slaughtered cows and goats. It was here I learned how fresh meat looked and smelled. Then we would go to the river edge to purchase fresh and smoked fish from the local fishermen. We most often would have some fresh fried pepper fish with freshly baked hot bread (delicious!). After which we go to the regular market. The market was a vibrant and colorful arena with equally colorful people to boot! Various traders hawking their wares and trying to convince you that theirs was the best product in the market. Haggling was an art form that you could not do without and my mom was an expert at it! The back and forth between her and the traders made for good entertainment for an impressionable youth such as myself. After a few hours, we would leave the market with a car full of everything from fresh produce to agbo (a selection of local medicinal herbs).
It is this experience that gives me the zeal to wake up early and recreate those steps I took as a youngster. And although we don’t have an “odo eran’ here, my local butcher is a great substitute, so is my local pharmacy for medication, my grocery store for grocery items and my African store for the best in African ingredients. I have also started taking my older daughter on my weekly pilgrimage, hopefully she will grow to have fond memories of it as I have.