Saturday, April 9, 2016

Village Market Day

It’s market day and the good news is the fog is clearing.  Shopping in the warm sun is a lot more pleasurable than the usual foggy grey, dampness of the Veneto in spring, and  by walking faster, I can beat the crowd that is waiting for the sun to burn through the clouds.

Every village and small town has a market that occurs at least once a week.  We have ours on Thursday while the next town over has theirs the next day.
city hall is a few steps from the market area

The market is crowded with both pensioners and moms pushing baby carriages.   The passageways between stalls are crowded and exasperating as the older people stop in the middle of the  small lane and refuse to allow  passage.  They stand, talking to their friends and act as if they don’t see others.  Another complaint I have is lining up for service.  I  will wait patiently at the vegetable seller’s stall, while people take cuts in line, obviously feeling entitled to be waited on first over a foreigner.  It is frustrating that Italians do not like to form a line.  They crowd and many push or maneuver to the front all the while not looking at others.  I have seen people wait a half an  hour in a line and people arrive and walk and take cuts in the front of the line.  (Airport lines are the worst!)  There is no justice in an Italian line!

 The same market sellers keep the exact space they have for years.  If a seller is absent, they don’t fill in the space, they just leave the spot empty.  Apparently they must yearly rent the exact position.  The Carabinieri or local police check on who is selling, etc., every week by walking through the market with their clipboards.

Our market stretches out to be about an area of three basketball courts, and a drone’s eye view of the market would reveal:  4 vegetable sellers, one cheese, two fish, one roasted chicken, one salami, 4 women’s clothing, 2 socks and underwear,  1 nursery plants (edible), 1 flower, 3 shoes, 1 umbrella/wallet, 1 small hardware items, and 1 kitchen linens.  The marketplace is next to the middle school and just across the street from the bank and post office, which makes it convenient for those pensioners who keep their money in the post office bank.

I have been early several times before 8:00 and all the sellers are already set up and ready for customers, while by 1:30 they are packing up.  Arrive at 2:00 and the whole plot will be empty.  This is typical of most village markets I have visited except for the weekend markets.  I have been to the Saturday market in Monselice and it is both much bigger and the stalls are open in the afternoon.  

I usually pick up some vegetables at this stall, and this is where I feel a bit awkward when people cut in front, actually pushing themselves in front of where I am standing, or even worse, when the sellers says, “Who is next?” these annoying cast of old characters insist it is their turn.  They never, never turn around and look at me when this happens.  Even after they have their purchases they turn away from me in another direction.  I always hope they will look me in the eye after this, but so far it has never happened.

That’s my jolly fish lady where I buy fish.   She is always making an attempt to teach me Italian.  She plays religious music and opera to attract customers, and now she has a plastic bird that sings on the countertop.  She has a home in our village so she is quite familiar with the older people.  There is considerable joking between them, but I usually don’t understand it.  The reason is that they speak Veneto, a dialect close to Italian.  Veneto, when you hear it, sounds like someone speaking while in a dentist chair.  Sort of like.. kahoooeeeoio mehoooeeaheh…I cannot hear the consonants much.

People who do not have a car (yes, there are many here), cannot get to a big supermarket, so visiting the fish lady is their chance to get anything that swims.    She has a good selection, shrimp, calamari, octopus, bass, cod, small crabs, some other types of fish and some little squiggly things I would not eat, based on their appearance.  In Italy the sellers are required to post where the fish came from, and you find the same identification in the vegetable stands.  Because of this I know that my garlic comes from Spain, China or Greece, and the shrimp comes from Italy, India, or Vietnam.  With the latest information on how these things are raised, this is important information before choosing.  Do you have this where you live?  Hope so.

This is where I buy my peppers, sometimes hot and sometimes sweet.  Northern Italians are not big on spicy, so when I find hot peppers, I buy more than I would need, and freeze some of them.  I can then grate the frozen ones to apply in my cooking.  This fellow has connections with Sicilian suppliers and always has citrus from Sicily.  He also provides me with a fantastic tasting bruschetta in a jar made in Sicily.  Do you know bruschetta is pronounced in Italy with a “k” sound instead of a “shhh”?

The friendly flower people are always busy.  Italians love to have flowers in their homes.  When you have a small house, flowers make life more pleasant.  We try to have lot of flowers in our windows and on our terrace.  This week I will be celebrating spring by planting some.  

Next to the Sicilian guy there is a  fellow who provides my hot pepper plants.  Last year he had several types.  He also has basil, oregano, thyme, tulip bulbs, onion bulbs and lettuce plants.  I got my strawberry plants from him a few years ago.  I have always teased him about having not having enough chili pepper plants and I have given him seeds to plant, but he knows that I would be the only buyer.  For this reason I plant and grow my own.  

This is where the accordion player usually sits.  He has not been in attendance much this year and I miss him.  You would expect an Italian to be playing accordion in our small village, but he is Romanian.  Several times we have discussed music and I brought him music a couple of times.  He was appreciative, but I have never heard any of my songs played, it might be because he cannot read music.  At any rate I think he brings something romantic to our village and I always drop a euro or two in his hat.

So today, you have been to Italy and had a realistic view of life here.  For those of you living near a Safeway store, I hope you appreciate how convenient, how many types of items are available and your big shopping cart full of good stuff. 

Here is my cart…. pulled  all the way home…walking nearly one mile.  Ciao!

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