I was Skyping with a friend overseas (which for me, is anyplace other than Thailand, where I live), and in ending our conversation stated that I was off to the market to gather my dinner. Out of curiosity, she asked if the markets there were the same as in the USA. I had to stop and think about that for a few seconds. Yes, we do have supermarkets here that are really super-duper-markets where you can buy anything from food to toilets. And I do go to them about once per month. But after living here for so many years, a market to me is nothing like what they have in the West. In the States, a Farmer’s Market is specifically designated type of market that in years past was just a market. That’s where I shop on almost a daily basis…a plain old market.
The markets here are quaint to say the least. Everything in my neighborhood market is extremely fresh, from hand-squeezed fruit juices to newly deceased meats (primarily pork, chicken, fish, and other squirmy, squishy things), along with fried insects, half of which belong to Entomological groups I’ve never heard of.
I will publicly admit that because of my middle class Western upbringing, that although I believe eating insects is actually a very healthy and nutritious way to acquire protein, intellectualize as I might, I can’t bring myself to eat any of them. OK, I did try a few, but the icky thought far outweighed the marginal “good” taste. I won’t even mention the “live” salads where the little critters jump out of the bowl when you raise the lid. Oh, did I just mention that?
Still, insects and other odd critters (that I really won’t mention) aside, there are plenty of yummy things throughout my wonderful market. Actually, I go to two markets. One is walking distance from my house, and the other is way across town, but well-worth the weekly trip. Because these markets are for the locals, very few foreigners visit them. Most of the time, I am the only Westerner in sight. It took years before I gained the trust of the venders where they laugh and joke with me, even though they speak so fast I hardly understand a word they’re saying. No one ever tries to overcharge me, in fact they usually replace some fruit or other item I’ve picked out, for a much larger or better specimen.
Thais, in general, don’t save leftovers. This is because culturally, they only make enough food to eat for a particular meal, plus, in olden days, there was no way to keep food from spoiling. Today, in most households that I’ve visited, the fridge is primarily used to keep drinks cold, not for food. I live several hundred meters from the largest university in Northern Thailand and at the entrance to the road that goes to my neighborhood, are six brand new condos housing about two thousand girls. On the street right in front are dozens of street stalls selling everything from roasted chicken to dozens of types of noodle soups to countless varieties of desserts.
When the girls are hungry, they only have to walk a few meters to get anything their heart desires. Luckily for me, I can too.
In the case of “A picture is worth a thousand words,” I’ll let the photos tell the story of my typical shopping sojourn.