To Market, To Market

9 Jun

“To market, to market to buy a fat pig.

Home again, home again, dancing a jig.

To market, to market to buy a fat hog.

Home again, home again, jigety jog.”

                                              Mother Goose

Market in Ortigia, Siracusa

We go to market three to four times a week to get fresh fruits, vegetables, meat and fish. The market here is an open air food bazaar on a street in Ortigia.  When the market is in full swing, the venders bellow  (from the diaphragm) their offering. The fish mongers are the loudest and most creative. Vendors try to outdo each other and crack each other up.  Wish I knew what they were saying but I suspect it is more than “cockles and mussels alive alive o.”

Early in the day shoppers are mostly local.  These are the little, and I mean little, old ladies with shopping baskets that get right in there to hand select their tuna steak and haggle.  Later in the day the crowd is more mixed local and tourist.  The sellers use a different method of sales with the tourists. If you try to select your own piece of fruit, they vigorously shake their head “No. No. No.” and wag their finger. Then they select from a box in the back. It’s sort of a benign bait and switch. For the most part the vendor selected fruit is just fine.

The market is vibrant with color and redolent with the smell of roasting peppers and garlic.

Nespole is an Italian loquat.

There are huge mounds of fresh tomato paste to be scooped to the size you need. There are fruits we have never seen before like nespole, an Italian kumquat, sometimes called medlar. Snails are crawling in the bins and dates are in crates fresh on the stalk.

All parts of fennel are sold. I suspect it is so popular because it complements seafood so well. The seafood is displayed on long open cases filled with ice. There is everything from whole swordfish with the sword to large octopus, tiny sardines and silvery sea eel. The seafood colors range from shades of blue and gray to pink and orange. In one market we saw the fish swimming in a tub. The buyer and the vendor were bent over the tub picking from the freshest of fish.

Santa Lucia Sunday Market in the piazza

After closing…Ortigia Market

Open air markets differ from city to village in size and personality. We went up to the market in Catania, the second largest city in Sicily.  It covered the streets of three or four square blocks.  The vocalizations were much longer and some of the vendors sang their litany of products. Grocery stores along the streets are also open so you can enter them as you wind your way through the stalls. Amazingly all of this disappears at noon. All of the booths, produce, fish and stainless steel cases are removed. The piazzas and streets return to foot and vehicle traffic. You would never know there was a lively market there just one hour before.

5 Responses to “To Market, To Market”

  1. Maryl June 16, 2012 at 2:32 pm #

    Our farmer’s markets here seem so boring compared to what you’re seeing and experiencing. Not sure I would want to shop that way all the time, but it must be a fun and new way to buy the freshest of produce.

    • jill54321 June 16, 2012 at 3:04 pm #

      Today was the first time they had music. Two guys with really loud shirts on playing a base and an accordion. There are many accordion players here. Not sure if it is just for the tourists but the instrument does lend itself to Italian country tunes.

      • jill54321 June 16, 2012 at 3:04 pm #

        Do any of our dear readers play the accordion?

  2. Ellen Gregor June 10, 2012 at 5:14 pm #

    In her sixties, my mother, a great cook, married an Italian and began to cook many Italian dishes. One of my favorites was fennel soup made with sausages.
    I love the outdoor markets – thanks for sharing!

    • jill54321 June 10, 2012 at 10:32 pm #

      What a wonderful memory of your mother. I will think of you next time we see the fennel. J

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