Travel Insight into Shopping

Do you see this door?

A porta permanence fechada. THIS DOOR STAYS CLOSED. Remember the skittering bug I mentioned last week? We got to know each other cara a cara last week. Face-to-face. I had gotten into the habit of turning on the light and fan before going into the loo as a warning… well, one time, he wasn’t so warned.

I screamed. AND I ran. Up those very stairs, in fact, bursting in on Jessica and Mark watching TV upstairs, almost in tears… because I’ve NEVER see a bug that big in my life. Basically (and this is to scale), it looks like this:

It’s SO BIG that there’s a HUMAN-SIZED WOMAN, dressed as a BIRD, STANDING ON ITS HEAD.

And now you know why I screamed.

I’ll come back to what that really is later… but to foreshadow, let me just say, “North America is as exciting as tepid bathwater when it comes to cultural exhibitions.” Yep.

Saturday was the best day ever. We went to TWO markets!! The first one was a local fruit-and-veg market, and the second one let us drive through central SP—my first glimpse—which meant I got to see some amazing architecture and absolute squalor. Interestingly, the place of the greatest history and beauty is also *the* most dangerous in town. I was basically agog, taking it all in—so photos (from the car!) will follow the next time we make the trek. This time, I was in awe. But now: the food.

I have a bad habit of feeling awkward about photography when out in public—and it shows in some of these snaps, a bit out of focus as I tried to take the pic and hide the camera in one quick step… but they *do* get some of the sense of the market.

It was hot and sunny when we made our way there, and the first thing that struck me was that my Lonely Planet was right—aaaaaaaaaand so was my Dad. I tend not to trust him when he tells me about “how it is” where he’s travelled, or about History (sorry Dad! Love ya!) because I’m both an academic *and* I have a different traveling philosophy, so I see the world differently.

BUT! He was right! SP has the *largest* Japanese population outside of Japan, which was obvious at the market. See, exhibit A:

A poor exhibit, admittedly, as these people are really just Asian and I’ve gone and extrapolated, but now imagine that this photo is a microcosm of the market—maybe 25% of people there were Japanese. Cool!

I tried to capture the breadth of the market—which is tough to do when you’re a shorty in a crowded place, but lo, a break in the crowd density let me catch this one… and this is only slightly less than half of it… awesome. 🙂

Our first stop was for sustenance, however, since Ondilège cereal doesn’t really tide you over…

This is the first time I’ve shown Jessica here, and I *LOVE* that she’s eating in it (OK, drinking)—because approximately 90% of the photos I took of her in Germany three years ago had her doing the same thing. 😀

Everyone, that’s Mark and Jessica. Jessica and Mark, everyone.

This would be the coconut water part of our day—which I actually found to be quite tasty, in spite of really not caring all that much for coconut most other forms.

As a shout-out to Brazil’s slave history, the African transplant of manioc (aka, cassava) was on offer—and we bought some… I’ve had tapioca before (and wondered where it came from), but this is new! More to follow when we decide what we’re going to *do* with it. They cook it up right there at the market, too, so I got to taste some boiled. It had a pleasing, sweetish taste, with a texture like a cross between a potato and a parsnip.

Fascinatingly—even at 27 degrees out—the meat just sits in open cases.

And Kath asked me for proof of the gargantuan produce… well, in this next image, the cauliflower is normal-size. And that makes the zucchini about 8 cauliflowers long.

And then came the peppers…

Newsflash: Brazilian food is NOT hot. They don’t put black pepper on the tables, and when I used more than one splash of Tabasco on my mushroom-polenta last week, it became a topic of 2 minutes’ conversation about whether I should be allowed to *eat* it… and it wasn’t even hot after all that!

So it’s no surprise that we passed on the “Oh Shit” peppers, and opted instead for what Jessica called “Nose peppers”—because they’re so fragrant. And pretty!

They sell sugar cane in bags, like so:

and then Doce de Leite and other sweet treats:

But what fascinated me was the sugar cane juice:

100% natural, the man’s shirt boasts, and pressed right there in the market.

And one last glory shot of Jessica eating a cheese Pastel: a thin dough square “stuffed” (with a thin slice, mind you) with cheese, fried. Mark had his with cheese and “carne seco”, aka: beef jerky.

By then, Jessica was “tired of the noise and the crowd”, which I thought was funny since she *lives* in a MEGA city, and so we headed off to drive to Mercado 2: the central market.

Since it’s in such a bad part of town, I was warned not to take my camera out *outside* the market, and by the time we were inside, I was feeling distinctly cautious. So I took only a few photos—one of the stained glass:

And one of the pretty fruits—a better display than at the other market (and quite a bit more expensive):

And my thrill—did you know that cashew nuts come from this fruit?

I don’t get it… but I will.

And to my amazement after finding Brazil pricey, our trip to the markets was an absolute *bargain*! Jessica said “we should make a habit of this.” oh YES! 😀 😀 😀

And at the end of this fine day, we cooked a nice meal (yay! Next post!) and then took in the “Parintins folklore festival” on TV—Jessica was reading from the Portuguese Wikipedia to tell me about it, and it was WAY more substantial than my link. Wiki is wrong—because I *saw* the blue Coke ads (no hoax!), but ultimately, the whole event was somewhat beyond my understanding, so I’ll close with some choice images (maybe better viewed while under the influence of *something*), and renew my statement that North America needs to kick up the colour of cultural events somewhat, non?

Oh. Yeah.