Thursday, March 08, 2007


I went shopping this I do many mornings. And no this isn't a picture of least not yet. But I did come home loaded down with a shopping bag and a bouquet of Agapanthus.

Back in Houston shopping was just another chore. I'd drive to the grocery store, walk up and down the aisles, throw things in the cart, wait in line to check out, load up the car, drive home, unload the car and put the groceries away. I'm not much for making a grocery list. I just kind of had a list in my head. Occasionally I'd see something that I wasn't thinking about cooking that might change my mental list but most of the time, it was the same old, same old.

It isn't that way here in San Miguel. You might have a mental list but you have to be open to what looks good that day. Vegetables are fresh and somewhat seasonal. Tomorrow they won't look so good and the day after that they'll look worse and the day after that..... So you have to figure out which days different vendors get their produce. You also develop a relationship with them and they'll throw in an extra onion or an apple as a regalo for you. Or if you are looking at the cilantro with hesitation because it seems a bit wilted, they'll say, "No, no" and pull out some fresher cilantro for you from under the counter.

Today I walked into town hoping to find a filete de res because I want to invite friends for dinner in the next day or two. I also thought I might get a chicken breast to spice up a pasta sauce for dinner tonight. I was hoping to find vinegar....just plain vinegar. Surprisingly, I couldn't find any at the little grocery near us yesterday. They only had gourmet vinegars that were quite pricey. Proof that they do cater to us ex-pats. So I planned to look at Bonanza's as I walked to the market. They too had about six kinds of speciality vinegars but on a bottom shelf I found plain vinegar and I was very happy to find a brand that had a screw cap as opposed to the kind with a pop-off cap.

I found my filete at the meat store, my chicken at the chicken store and vegetables in the Ramirez Mercado. Fresh flowers come in on Wednesday evening or Thursday morning so all the flowers looked beautiful and I bought 12 stems of Agapanthus for 50 pesos. The Ramirez Mercado is on the other side of town but I was enjoying my adventure so I walked back with my bolsa in one hand and the flowers in the other.

I can't exactly explain how I feel about shopping here but I feel like I'm close to the earth, connected to the food chain in some special way that I don't feel in a super market in Houston. I feel like I'm a hunter/gatherer finding nourishment for my family. I feel creative because I'm planning new recipes around the freshest food available on this day. Shopping here isn't a chore for me even though I'm walking close to 2 miles to and from the Mercado. It is an adventure.

Update: After I returned to the house, I realized that I only had a partial package of pasta. I started to go back to get some pasta but then I started thinking what can I do with what I have. So the menu has changed. I cook up the chicken with onion, garlic, carrots and fresh green peas, and some chicken stock to make a bit of sauce and serve it with rice and we'll have a nice big salad!


Brenda said...

Yes, shopping is more interesting and fun down here isn't it? Don't forget about the truck vendors up and down your streets, these fellows often change my menus for me also.

Nancy said...

I love it when a blog entry really brings something to life for me, and this one really gave me the feel for what your shopping is like.

By the way, you also sound like a fabulous cook!

Billie said...

Thanks Nancy and Brenda.
Brenda, I don't usually buy from the street venders because the bags are so big and I haven't had frige room to store large quantities. But now with my new superduper frige, I may start buying the 3 kilo bags of tomatoes. Your soup and pasta sauce blog was an inspiration.

Nancy, you'll be shopping in Mexico soon...time flies you know. I'll be interested in how you find the shopping. I'll take the mercados over the supermarkets (even the Mexican supermarkets) any day.

John H said...

Billie, I love the mercados, too. Shopping can be an adventure instead of a chore. Occasionally I buy someting new and exotic--like grenadas chinas, which I'm now addicted to. We also buy from the door-to-door ladies that sell nopalitos or tortillas or cilantro or roses.


Anonymous said...

Oh my gosh! SOmeone who understands my view of food shopping! Back home shopping was a chore, and I had a car there! Here is is a leisure activity, a chance to mingle with folks, a chance to take in the smells, get some exercise...blah blah! I love going to the mercado here but HATE going to any grocery store, not sure why. Maybe I detest lines; we are forced into lines at the grocery store but we can sniff, touch even taste much at the mercado as we bump into people also doing the same. Then as we stuff coins into the hands of the seller at the mercado...something else happens! With one eye on the money and another on that ripe juicy grape that just caught my eye as I was paying...oh my, gotta buy something else now. And then when I walk home with my (very own) grocery sack (you know the ones I am referring to) I spy someone with delicious carnitas, or taquitos...and because Suegra said they were fine to eat, I would buy enough to supply the whole family. Then we leave, really, we mean it this time...well try to...and we smell fresh bread on the way out, so yeah gotta get that too. YUM!!

Claudine (in a city now and soooo missing the country mercados)