Photos Later, the computer is toooooo slooooooow for all that digital straming.
Tall stacks of orange crates, all facing the customer. One cut open to show the world that the rind is only a few millimeters thick. Another one or two have mold starting on them. I spy the moldy one and wonder how that would go down at Disneyland Carrs on Huffman. The proprietor eyes me and I can imagine him saying, “Yes, there is a moldy one, of course there is a moldy one, that’s because they are ripe. They are so ripe that if you don’t eat it right now it will go moldy, ha capito? You don’t like that one, don’t buy it, here buy these, they are very nice, very fresh, I’ll throw in the moldy one some you can remember how fresh they are. “ I smile behind my Ray Ban’s and move on.
I am on a mission to get some eggplant trying to buy the things that are only available in Italy or so darn good here that I will miss them sorely. Eggplants are pretty much between 1 and 1.50 euro per kilo so I keep walking looking for the bargain. Eventually, on my way out I spot a sign over some gorgeous looking eggplants, not wet with the sprinkle of water required on these hot days to keep them looking dewy but beautiful, but by Alaska standards…. Here they are an embarrassment, and to get rid of them quickly they are on sale. 50 centemismo per kilo. My mother always told me to buy the ones that were a little bit softer, meant they were a little but older and they weighed less, I follow her advice when presented with a choice, which rarely happens in Alaska. I bought two big beauties – .40 centesimos. I couldn’t believe it. I will cook them up in a lovely batch of the best crostini spread you ever ate, well, that I am going to eat. Yummmm.
Since I am getting close to departure, only one more market to go, I also started purchasing some of the things I have been eyeing for a while, dried porcini mushrooms, 50 e a pound, I bought an etto, 100 grams. The flavor is beyond words, makes button mushrooms a waste of time and money. Then there was the typically Calabrian Mostocoli biscotto. This is a BIG cookie in the shape of some sort of animal reminding the people of how important the animals are to them and the land. Old tradition.
I also glommed a couple of bags of oregano, already off the branches. I love the way they look while dried on the vine but I worry about customs, the more packaged and processed it looks the better when it comes to produce. I bought two, planning to share with family, but when he added up the total it would take 2 more euro to get to an even number so de decided I needed another one and plopped it my bag – they really hate making change- so now I have three. I checked with the gorgeous Italian proprietor, whom I see every week for taralli and my supply of almond paste cookies, and an occasional jar of honey, to see if this oregano was Calabrian or Sicilian, secretly hoping for the Sicilian. He gave me his best Hollywood smile, a twist and a cock of his head and said, Calaaabriaaan, as though I thought perhaps he would serve me Sicilian slop at his Calabrian shop. I also read in the smile, “What’s the matter with you, you know me. Would I sell you anything that wasn’t from beautiful, powerful, wonderful Calabria – the Pearl of the Ionian sea, so bountiful and beautiful that it was coveted by a hundred nations but being the incredible people we are we fought each of them and reclaimed our homeland again, well until those pigs from the north decided to unify the country, really just to get Calabria, for their own personal gain, but let’s not think about that now, it’s a beautiful day. “
Leaving the produce area means a trip up the 4 flights, but lugging the artichokes, eggplants, taralli and cheese makes the decision a no brainer. I take a quick break, and head back down to the other part of the market, where real money gets spent. Here everything from bras and socks to CD’s to kitchen supplies is sold. Everything.
The signs are my favorite part, SALDE! SALDE! Offerata! Buy me, buy me, I’m on sale. Where are you going to get a deal like this? Hesitate in front of a booth and the proprietor is on you with a sample for you look at, look in their direction and you get a “Prego Signora.” Eventually I realized big sunglasses allowed me to at least take a quick look without being hailed and reeled in. I also stopped being shy about saying, “No, grazie.” Even if you sail through without a single sideways glace you can’t help but notice the signs. Most are homemade, some offer a significant amount of explanation, which I usually can’t comprehend, but there are also the commercially prepared ones, those are the best. On Sale! Special Deal! Going out of Business! Below Cost! , all in Italian of course, and they seem to scream at you to come in and get the best bargain of your life. “Look here, these are so cheap, where can you get these at this price, come on, I am selling them below cost, they’re practically a gift, I’d be insulted if you didn’t take them from me. “ I stroll on. Six pairs of sox for a euro is a good deal, but I have enough sox.
The most delicious part is that prices are really just in invitation to have a dramatic rendering reminiscent of a Verdi opera about why it is impossible to sell this to you at a lower price. My favorites are the ones who use those fabulous hand gestures to add emphasis to the simple words. I am not a haggler at heart and so I really can’t bring out the best in them, but I can watch, and it is fun. My simple style is to remain silent and occasionally shake my head and wait for them to do all the work. Nothing works as well as walking away though, which brings the prices down dramatically, especially if they were inflated to begin with. I usually pay the listed price, which is often fair to begin with. I bought a suitcase with wheels that will probably last at least until I get home, big enough for me to haul back all the goodies I purchased along the way, or for a small family to live in. I didn’t question the 30 euro because I had priced them around town and that was a reasonable price. However, I had been caressing a grey leather purse in the same shop before I purchased the suitcase. I didn’t consider buying it because I thought she said it was cinquanta (50 €), instead of the quindici (15€) that it actually was. But because I believe haggling is as much fun as selling is for them, and they expect to get less than the listed price, they called it fair by offering me the, by then forgotten, purse for cinque €. That would be a third of the asking price, 5€ instead of 15€. I don’t know who came out smelling like a rose in that transaction, but I was a happy camper. Someone please tell my mother that her prayers have been answered, I AM CARRYING A PURSE, and I love it. She should probably let go of the hope for lipstick though.