The three of us crowded into the back seat of a small taxi, battling early morning traffic to get to the market. Tony had regaled me with stories of how the parking lot was filled with armies of flower vendors. I love flowers – the colors, the shapes, the smells, the textures. I couldn’t wait.
We got there and immediately went to the buñuelo vendor for a quick breakfast. She was pulling fresh breads out of the oven. The smell was intoxicating. Flour, sugar, yeast – all wrapped up in the smell of warmth. He brought tiny metal stools for us to sit on – plates of metal on unsteady legs. I sat carefully, watching her move the breads from the oven drawer to the glass warming case on top of it. Tony told her what we wanted and she placed the bread directly from the oven onto our oval plastic plate, lined with paper-thin napkins. One with cheese, one with arequipe (caramel) and one filled with a guava jelly. The outside of the bread was slightly hard to the touch, and immediately yielded to soft, fluffy bread once broken. We shared the three among the three of us and ordered more, in additional to pan de yucca, a petite oval loaf made from yucca root. People came and went, sitting on the rickety metal chairs for several minutes, chatting with others or sitting silently enjoying their breakfast treat and a small cup of coffee.
Next, we walked towards the corner of the massive parking lot. Tony sighed, saying there weren’t many vendors there compared to Saturday or Wednesday. But there were! There were flowers everywhere! Roses, carnations, orchids, sunflowers, flowers I had never seen before. Buckets and buckets and buckets of flowers, vendors calling out, offering bunches for 50 cents or a few dollars. I stood still, breathed deeply, and felt the sun shining down. Pure joy. We meandered through the rows of vendors, choosing flowers for the apartment. Blush roses, beautiful greenery, baby sunflowers.
After we filled our bag, we headed indoors to the fruit and vegetable vendors. Pyramids of tomatoes and onions and peppers and avocados and carrots and broccoli and cauliflower and onions and yucca greeted us. Mesmerized, I followed Tony and Cris, wandering aisle to aisle, stopping to snap photos of the brightly colored arrangements. We bought vegetables for dinner, then wandered through the fruit section – oh the apples! the strawberries! the magnificent grapes! – then on to the herbs.
We were searching for sage. At the first booth, Cris asked the vendor for sage. The vendor mumbled something and Cris immediately left. I asked him, “What did he say?” “When I asked for sage, he said they only have the kind for feminine baths. We don’t want that in our chicken.” I laughed hysterically as we continued to the other vendors, asking for sage that wasn’t for feminine baths or cattle. We eventually found it, then made our way through the fish vendors, back through the vegetable vendors, and back to a taxi. A delightful morning at the market.