'tis the season to measure the harvest
I hear those tiny footsteps coming down from the bedroom area, tumbling everything in their way, while the heel is pressing down hard with each step as in a punishment she is looking to give to the ground.
With one hand beneath the pillow, looking for the cool spot underneath, I'm trying hard to keep my shit together and go back to sleep, while I can feel a small presence pulling herself on the margins of the sofa. 10 seconds later, a soft and very moist kiss on my cheek is giving me the blessed "Sunday morning wake-up call" and while my eyes are still shut, I can hear that gasped breath of hers.
It's 8 o'clock in the morning and there are working days when literally, I'm not getting up so early. But during the weekend, the wakeup call is insured by her and it is always going to be sooner than 9 o'clock. So if it's weekend and I'm getting up so early, we need to make it to the market, buy those juicy fruits and that great cheese that she's so in love with. It's November almost so the harvest is in its prime. Now it is the time to go into the market. Look, touch, feel, smell, taste, buy!
And take some photos.
The vegetable corner and the fruit wall
"I want grapes!" she told me while looking at me, having that air of the princess that gives orders.
"We will buy grapes too, don't worry about it. But what about a pear?!"
"I don't like pears!"
She does but she's only being cranky. She was totally under the impression that after I will be awake I will give her the privilege to watch cartoons. Bad thinking my dear, bad thinking.
On the vegetable corner in the market, you can find everything that used to grow on a stem and was harvested for our delight. Cabbage, tomatoes, parsley, zucchini (either Italian or Romanian), cucumbers, green onion, some late radishes, red peppers and a lot of golden onion. That's only a fraction of the variety that you can choose from in this period. You are buying from the middleman. Almost never directly from the producers, that one I know from a good friend that is in this business as well: "Look man, those old babuskas you see in the market, the ones that can tell you a really long story about how they seeded, grew and harvested the plant, they are middlemen too."
Only the ones that don't have a stall booked in order to put their merchandise on it, those are the real babuskas that grow the thing they are selling. You can see them aligned on the alleys around the vegetable/fruit market, or around the Central Halls, putting their greens on small cardboard boxes, always on the lookout for the Police. It's like they're selling weed or something, that's how hunted these babuskas are. There are virals on YouTube showing "vigilant cops" while they are arresting some of these old ladies, trying to make a buck. Of course, the goods are confiscated. I bet that the parsley they confiscated is gonna save some kids from having to eat greeneries in their soup. Good job officer.
I call the fruit wall "a wall" because almost everywhere there, the fruits are stashed up so high that you have to look around them to talk to the vendor. Apples, pears, grapes and loquats are in abundance. It's their time around our parts and are greatly ripped right now. It's the sweetest moment for them.
Bananas, oranges, mangos and pineapples are here to complete the whole picture with the "exotic born fruits" and these are maybe the only things that they can't say that it was produced by them. Telling stories like "I've got a good friend that is a farmer in Crete..." is the alternative to this "straight from the producers" policy.
Walnuts, sunflower seeds and hazelnuts are in a special part of the Fruit/Vegetable market, where they stand together with honey and other things derived from the product of bees. This is the most expensive corner of the market because the price per kilo for things like this can go way up high, depending on the production of the year.
Still, the star of the fruit stalls is the grape. Dark blue or light green, with big, sweet-sour berries or smaller ones, with the sweetness concentrated in that round berry that is going to transmit the fruitiness into the wine. But these are "table grapes", specially designed and raised in order to bring joy into the mouth of both adults and kids too.
The kid was drooling already at that sight so I had to buy a little bit of both and promise her that as soon as we will get home she will receive the well-deserved berries. Happiness in a berry you could say.
The fish and cheese extravaganza
In the Central Halls, built between 1929 and 1936, you can find the mall of the past. This is where people were coming before the Second World War and also during the communist years, to buy almost everything they could think of, in terms of food and tastes. It is set right near the vegetable/fruits open marketplace and it has 4 entrances, each dedicated to one of the big cities of Romania.
Over here I used to come once or twice per week, with my grandmother, when I was just a schoolboy. As we had our first supermarkets in my city around the year 2000, back in the '90s this was the most popular place to pick up the meat, the fish, the cheese or any other consumer goods related to hunger and/or thirst.
Nowadays I use to come here for the fish. Even from its beginnings the Central Halls were designed with a special department for fish in mind. As Romania has its own production of fish (in the Delta of the Danube and in the Black Sea), having thermally insulated storage spaces before the fridge appeared was very important. So this building has huge underground storage spaces, that are still used to keep fish fresh.
"Are we going to buy fishy fishy?!" she asked me almost drooling.
"Yes, we are going to take some so you'll have it for lunch."
Food is one of her biggest pleasures and vices all the same.
Over here you can find different suppliers, of different kinds of fish. More recently you can even find seafood. Some are brought directly from Greece but I wouldn't recommend that over here. Instead, you can buy the fish alive. Straight from improvised ponds that keep the carps and the crucians alive and well until you buy them. The service goes even further and the fish can be cut and sliced up in order to get it ready to insert inside the oven or even better...grill it.
The building was constructed with interior balconies, where in the past more stalls used to be placed. Since the war with the hypermarkets started, the Central Halls lost many clients as the final consumers moved from this "ancient mall" to the newer ones, that allow you to buy all the things needed around and inside the house. This also dropped the quality of the fish that you can find here so buying from these merchants implies that you know the deal and you know how to spot a fresh fish (a decent one, that deserves to be eaten) or the ones that are almost starting to rot on the inside.
The cheese department is right near the fish area. It is smaller but in my oppinion, the fact that it brings real producers (especially from the centre of the country, from the area of Sibiu county) makes this place worth a visit. You'll not find better cheese in supermarkets. There's a long time already since the producers of cheese, in their majority, refused to work with hypermarkets from various reasons. They took their destiny into their own hands, refused the small price the supermarkets gave them for their work and continued to come, as they did in communism, in the markets around the city.
Still, I like to move around these places, negotiate and buy with all the vendors. Somehow it brings back memories from my childhood, good memories... sweet ones. In this sense, I was wondering if, when people say that "it used to be better before" is just a thing that all of us are saying when we are comparing the days we are living now with the days from our youth or even childhood. It is absolutely normal that we will have subjective feelings about that period as we were children or anyway, younger, which when looking at it retrospectively, may look better in our eyes.
Posted also on my blog www.ddma.ro, a place on the world wide web where I'm trying to promote Steemit, my writings and my country. In that order. I post through the @steempress-io plugin and I make my life easier (writing and formatting in Wordpress is much easier than on steemit.com or busy.org)