I sometimes feel we’ve forgotten the true art of food shopping.
How many of us are guilty of running around the supermarket late on a Friday. Fed up because we didn’t leave work on time and subsequently sat in traffic for an hour. We just want to get home but know that if we leave the weekly shop until Saturday or Sunday the supermarket is going to be rammed full of people in the same predicament. Far from savouring the experience, its a necessity and one we’d much rather do without.
I’m staying with a lovely family here in the village of Algoz, Portugal. Their big market is every second Monday of the month so I’m very fortunate that it’s fallen whilst I’m here. Maria asks if I would like to join them in shopping and of course I jump at the chance. The market sells everything from fresh fruit and veg to trees, flowers, fish, nuts, beans, honey, plants, clothing, locally painted pottery, garden tools and even live chickens! They have a daily market too Maria explains. This one is just bigger, with more variety.
It’s been ages since I walked around a market like this. It’s not that we don’t have markets in England, I live just outside Manchester so I could venture to Smithfield market more often, it’s just not quite the same. And although there’s the odd farmers market locally every now and again, it tends to feature more unusual produce, deli goods and artisan cheese. Not that that’s a bad thing, it’s just more pricey and less essential than buying locally grown, great quality veg on a regular basis. I’d much prefer to spend my money at a market than with a global supermarket chain any day.
The experience of shopping at the market isn’t just about being able to pick up locally grown food at a great price. It’s the friendliness and interaction I love. Granted the sun is shining but everyone smiles and the locals ask me for the English names of fruit and veg just as I’m keen to learn what they’re called in Portuguese. The traders are delighted to answer questions, they talk about where their goods are sourced, reared or grown. I chat away to the honey man about the rosemary and lavender that grow in the mountains where his honey is produced. This is not just a job for these people, it’s a passion.
It all sounds very quaint and lovely. And that’s because it is.