Farmers' Market: A Reflection of the Local Culture
When I was a child, I hated going to the market on the weekends. I didn’t like the hot temperature, the foul smell of the wet market, the heavy traffic of people. When the market trip went longer than usual, I get nauseated because of the overwhelming odor. Overall, I equate the farmers’ market to a chaotic place.
Our public market is divided into two: the dry and wet markets. Each section is further divided into areas grouping several vendors according to the goods they sell. The dry market is where vendors of fruits, vegetables, eggs, dried salted fish, and rice cakes are located. It’s called the dry market because the ground is dry.
Everyday at early dawn, merchants display their goods as they wait for the day’s buyers. Fruits and vegetables are grouped together or stacked in small pyramids creating a beautiful display. Picking up the goods for personal scrutiny is encouraged so you’ll know the quality of the food you’re buying. Usually, an opened fruit is placed on top of a fruit pile to entice customers to buy the delicious item. Patikiman or eating a small piece of the fruit is allowed just so the vendor can make a sale. Prices drop when a fruit is in season and supply abounds in the market. In the vegetable area, vendors prepare cut-up veggies for common local dishes such as Pinakbet and Bulanglang. All the vegetables for the recipe are placed in plastic bags for easy retail. Everything you need to cook the dish is already cut, peeled, and sliced for you.
The smell and sight of the wet market can be overwhelming, especially if you’re used to the clean, antiseptic smell of big supermarkets. This market is divided into two sections: fish/seafood and meat/poultry. In the fish market, fishmongers and seafood vendors shout their hearts out to call the attention of buyers. Fish vendors prepare shallow basins with chunks of ice. Here they arrange small fishes like Short mackerel (Hasa-hasa), Moonfish (Hiwas), and Threadfin bream (Bisugo). Larger fishes like the Yellow-fin tuna (Tambakol) and Milkfish (Bangus) are stacked neatly in front of the stall. Tilapia is a popular fish and it has its own area within the fish market. The vendors have customized stalls wherein instead of a flat table, they have deep tubs filled with oxygenated water. Live tilapia flips within the small confines of the tub creating water splashes, and customers can choose which fish to buy. The fish vendors will gut, scale, and clean the fish for the customer. Seafood is a bit pricey compared to fish and the supply is limited in the market. Prawns, shrimps, crabs, mussels are the usual seafood available; oysters are rare.
Fresh meat (chicken, pork, and beef) is sold at the meat section. Pig and cow parts like the head, legs, and offal are hung on metal hooks, sort of an announcement that the vendors are selling freshly butchered meat. Chickens are usually sold frozen, though there are live chickens available, and can be bought as a whole or per chicken part: breast, wings, and legs. Nothing is wasted in a chicken aside from its feathers and beak, so chicken heads, feet, intestines, offal, and blood are also for sale.
In any local market, it’s better if you happen to be a regular customer. Vendors will give you the best of their wares and discounts. They’ll tell you if their merchandise is still fresh and of high quality. If not, they will refer you to another vendor. Having a relationship with your farmers' market vendors can be important, especially if they see you often and know what you are looking for in the goods they sell.
When I started working in the city, the mall was my go-to place for everything I needed. After years of buying food from the mall’s supermarket, after experiencing the comfort and convenience of the well-lit, air-conditioned market and rows upon rows of produce, I decided that I still prefer buying fresh produce from our local market. Once thought as a disorderly place, I realized that there’s organization in the farmers’ market. And it reflects our local culture and shows what bounty our community offers.
About the Author
Joyce Dimaculangan is a freelance writer who has written articles on a wide range of topics from information technology to lifestyle and wellness. She enjoys eating local foods, trying new dishes, and buying organic produce as much as possible. You can follow her on Twitter @joysi_writer