On Wednesday I went on a food adventure with my sister Kaaren and our friend Deb. The first part of our experience took place in the Lucas de Gálvez’ market in central Merida where we went to purchase all the vegetables and other supplies for cooking our meal. Before we even entered the market we stopped to get some chaya from a vendor. Chaya comes from a shrub native to the Yucatan. It is sometimes also called tree spinach. Edgar our affable and informative guide for the day told us that chaya can be toxic if it isn’t prepared properly but cooked the right way it can actually provide you with lots of valuable vitamins and minerals. We would use it to make tortillas and a delicious juice for our meal. We entered the Lucas de Gálvez’ market. It was a huge space bustling with people. The corridors between the stands were narrow and we had to be sure not to stand in the way of the traffic flow. I think we might have gotten lost in the market without Edgar there to guide us. You could buy live chickens and rabbits in the market but Edgar said we didn’t need to purchase any because his Aunt Bertha, who would be helping us cook, had gone to the market this morning to get the chicken for our meal. Our first stop was at this little shop where we tasteddifferent kinds of jams made with jalapeno peppers and tried coconut and licorice liquors. Edgar suggested we buy some to have after our meal.Edgar showed us achiote seeds. Achiote is a peppery spice that comes from the seeds of an evergreen shrub. The achiote seeds had been used to make this red paste. Edgar bought a bag. While Deb was checking out the bags of red achiote paste Edgar told us we would be coating our chicken with it before we cooked it. Edgar said it was time for a snack to fortify ourselves for the rest of our shopping trip. He ordered pork buns with onions for us. I especially liked the huge radish that accompanied my sandwich. Edgar told us to squeeze lime juice on it before we ate it to bring out its flavour. Edgar got cups of ice-cold lime juice to go with the pork buns. We were glad of the refreshment because it was a very hot day. Then we were back in the trenches to visit one stand after another to collect our cooking ingredients. We bought tomatoes from this friendly woman. This vendor let us taste some ground pumpkin seed before we bought it. Mixed together with a tomato sauce the ground pumpkin seed would make a delicious nutty dip for tortilla chips. We bought dough for making our own tortillas at this stand where we watched a machine in action that can crank out thousands of tortillas every hour. We picked up lettuce and cilantro. Edgar added a variety of hot peppers including ones called red devils to our growing inventory of purchased ingredients. He put a couple of these interesting cucumbers into his shopping bag and a half-dozen of these slightly sour oranges. These avocados looked different from the kind we buy in the grocery store. We were squeezing them to see which ones were ripe enough till my sister saw the sign “If don’t buy-don’t touch.” Edgar showed us how by just looking at the end of the avocado you can tell if it is ripe and ready to eat. Now we were ready to leave the market. It had been quite a shopping adventure. Two things I noticed during our time in the Lucas de Gálvez’ market was that every single vendor had a religious shrine of some kind in their stand and……I marveled at the pure artistry of the vendors who arranged their produce in such creative ways. The various colors of the vegetables and the way they were artfully organized was a feast for the eye. Look how these carrots have been carefully arranged!
As we left the market Edgar hailed this small ancient taxi. Squished together in the cramped hot back seat the three of us bumped along on the twenty-five minute ride to Aunt Bertha’s where the cooking part of our adventure took place. You will have to check the blog tomorrow to learn all about that!