Every Tuesday there’s a farmers market where I’m told that many restaurants get their fresh produce. Cassie, my patient and good-natured friend, volunteered to take me there.
Now, our farmer’s market in Michigan is lovely — wonderful seasonal fruits and vegetables, soaps, fresh-caught lake fish, plants, baked goods, even popcorn. It was a nice sunny day as usual here so I thought, won’t this be nice, a trip to the farmer’s market.
Before we go any further, I need to talk about expectations, and how every ex-pat should be given a laminated card that says, “Blessed is the man who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed” (Alexander Pope).
Let me just say I have a problem with expectations. I expect things to be clean, people to wait their turn, drivers to behave in predictable manners, the lights to go on when I throw the switch, politicians to be honest, pastors to be moral, you can see where I’m going with this. You’d think at my age that I would learn not to expect anything and just take each experience as it is, fresh and without expectation, but no! I am very stubborn. I expect things to be a certain way and when they’re not I either get mad, cry or take a nap.
As you can imagine, Thom encourages me to take lots of naps…
This is our second ex-pat experience — the first being in Rome, Italy — and I can say that the universe scoffs at my American expectations. The gods roll around on the clouds guffawing and slapping each other on the back, “will you take a look at her?!” The locals just look at you as if you stepped off of another planet, which you kind of have.
Okay, back to the lovely crystal clear blue-sky day and our trip to the farmer’s market. The first hint that this farmers market was different was the traffic backed up half a mile onto the road perpendicular to the market. (Actually, I’m used to that now and have come to expect it…:) ) The second difference was the parking — it was complete mayhem! There were about 40 teen boys all waving at you and jumping up and down and directing you to go here, no there, no here! To play the game correctly Cassie told me to just choose one at the beginning and we become “his” and the others will back off. So, I did that.
But when I got out of the car I found we had two boys! (See photo below.) The guy in the white shirt below told me he would carry my bags and his orange shirted friend would guard the car. I told him I didn’t need help with bags but they could both watch my car. Of course, white shirt ran back into the street right after I left to recruit another car for his parking spot but orange shirt did stay put, leaning against the my SUV.
Third expectation — at the Meridian Township farmers market the fish comes filleted and cleaned. Not so here in Zambia. Here your fish are ready for you to scale, fillet and clean.
Of course, you can buy the dried fish if you want to skip that step, but I’m not sure how you eat it because it’s pretty dry and leathery. Maybe it’s more for flavoring?
The crab are ready for you to do whatever you do to make crab edible…
…as are the prawns.
Now really, am I alone here? How many Whole Food Store-shopping Americans under the age of 40 know how to clean fish, crabs or prawns?
Fourth expectation — dry goods are prepackaged. Not so here, which actually makes sense. Pasta, grains, nuts, seeds, etc., are all weighed like bulk items in a local food co-op.
Produce at farmers markets in the U.S. tend to be sold by the piece or in pre-packaged pints, quarts, etc. Here, the merchants weigh their items on a scale like the one in the photo below, or some have a hand-held hanging scale.
Fifth expectation — The produce did look beautiful and fresh, but in the U.S. we’ve come to expect the availability of any fruit or vegetable we want, no matter the season. I was a little surprised to see not much variation between what you could get at the farmers market and what you could get at the store. One thing they did have that I haven’t seen at stores was strawberries, imported from South Africa, but other than that the produce looked pretty similar to me, though definitely cheaper.
Sixth expectation — sanitation. In the U.S. there are all of these health department rules to keep the food supply safe. I’m sure the food supply is safe here too but items were just being sold in their raw form, like this tofu below. Don’t think I’d buy something like that in an open-air market.
Seventh expectation — the crowds! While I’m use to busy, crowded farmers markets in the U.S., this place takes the cake. The walkways were extremely narrow and it was so crowded we were pressed up against people, skin-to-skin, often pushed to the side while others passed in the single-lane walkways. Now, I was raised Lutheran and we don’t go for that skin-to-skin stranger stuff; a handshake is as far as we go, even during greeting time in church. This is something I should get used to I guess, a stranger’s moist, dusty skin pressed up next to you can’t kill you. We Americans are exposed to too many antibacterial gel commercials.
After about 15 minutes I had had enough. I really don’t like crowds and I didn’t see anything I wanted that I couldn’t get at my own local store.
On our way out we passed the used clothes booth, or as Thom calls it, the dead persons’ clothes booth. One of the project drivers told him that the used clothes here were cast-offs from dead people abroad and that’s why they were so cheap.
The Tuesday morning Lusaka farmers market is on Burma road, just east of Nationalist, at St. Peter’s Anglican Church. I found this youtube video that shows the front of the venue. I’m told it starts about 6.30 am and is over by about 11.30 am.