Sunday, January 17

Sunday at the Mercado

I'd always seen the Avelino--Arequipa's giant maze of a market--on my way to the bus terminal or to deliver pizza dough with Sergio. But I had never actually walked the congested side streets until this Sunday. What a chaos of vendors, shoppers and smells. One moment you caught a whiff of the tastiest fried something. The next smell made you want to puke.

Since arriving in August, Sergio and I have been shopping at Arequipa's grocery megastores--Plaza Vea, El Super and Franco--for two reasons: 1) we're in the American supermarket habit and 2) we don't know good meat from bad meat at the open air market.

But Señor Raúl finally convinced us that we hadn't seen the best of the markets in Arequipa. He took us a part of this giant market along Avelino Caceres (they call it "el avelino" for short).  It was called "Mi Mercado." 
While it was probably informal at one point, the vendors are now incorporated as a real supermarket. The only thing that was missing were walls. It had shopping carts, a section for pets and pet food, fruits, veggies, meats, cheeses, dried goods and cleaning supplies. 

The four of us, my mom, Sergio, Señor Raúl and I, shopped for at least two hours, comparing prices on carrots, onions and tomatoes. My mom was even brave enough to take a lick of the reddest spice we found. It turned out to be paprika, but I thought for sure she would burn her tongue off!

We also found some new produce, including purple corn used to make chicha morada (a popular drink here) and these psychedelic potatoes:

Sergio was our official negotiator. He uses his charm to work the vendors. "Nada menos?" ("Nothing less?") he usually asks right off the bat. He was pretty good at finding a deal. Most veggies and fruits were 60 cents/kilogram. 

We brought back three giant bags filled with green beans, potatoes, choclo (hominy), carrots, onions, cucumbers, papaya, purple corn and more. The shopping made us so tired that we left everything uncooked and went out to lunch down the street.

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