Friday, 14 September 2012
6 am on a Saturday Morning
Every Saturday morning, I hop out of bed at the crack of drawn-- ok, who am I kidding, I slam the alarm button off, snooze for ten more minutes, then very grouchily drag myself out of bed and go into a mad frenzied rush-- and make my way to Pimlico farmer's market. As horrible as I make it out to be, I actually really do love my Saturday mornings running the market. I remember a few years ago, looking for a part-time job outside of school to earn myself some pennies, and turning to all the random restaurants I've heard of but couldn't afford in the hope that they feed their waitresses well, and even being quite desperate enough to apply for retail jobs in the fashion high street stores (which give me a headache. I know, I'm not a girl.) It was absolute brilliance when I found my job as a farmer's market manager. I was the happiest girl on earth. The smell of fresh bread, the sight of all those (edible) purples and greens and orange and yellows and reds, and most of all, the banter with people who similarly love their food and where they come from.
Now that I'm back in Singapore, I'm afraid my Saturday morning starts at ten am, and lazily begins with a plate of fried noodles that my mum has made, with fresh vegetables bought earlier this morning (and the madwoman has probably also begun the cooking for dinner). Perhaps it's a sense of guilt, or perhaps I actually miss waking up at 5am, or perhap because like all cooks, I love being in touch with the source of my food, I found myself doing that snooze-drag-rush routine again this morning.
And so I found myself, rather out of place, in a world of haggling aunties and hollering uncles, with cries of "Only $4 for one kilo!" and whispers of "I think the stall at the other end cheaper. My mum navigated the chaotic sea of people and gossip with the seasoned strides of someone who has been doing it for her whole life, stopping to say hi to the stallholders and friends, and driving bargains with unabashed charm. I just trailed behind making embarrassed smiles on her behalf.
Wet markets are called that for a reason. Unlike the pretty stalls and signs and prettily packaged produce you find in a farmer's market, the place is, well, wet. The stallholders slosh around in their oversized rubber boots, happily chopping away on the spot to get you your fresh fish or meat, not bothering very much about the chaos and mess around them at all. I poked at everything and pretty much annoyed my mother and amused the fishmonger with all my questions. Fresh is key, so think blinking crabs and (certain) fish still swimming in tanks of water.
Vegetables are huge parts of dinners at home, not simply relegated to the role of a side dish. Leafy greens, especially, go beyond the usual spinach and kale; we all know the bok choy, but there's also chye sim, kai lan, kang kong, all wonderful just stir-fried with lots of garlic or lots of sambal. One aunty is bent over huge rattan baskets, sorting through and plucking beansprouts; and another, weighing the bittergourds and luffah. Into my mum's shopping basket, goes many bunches of spring onions and coriander-- asian essentials-- shoved her way after a cheeky "I buy so much, nothing free ah?"
We all know the banana and pineapple, but there are some tropical fruits that probably looked too weird to make it to overseas shores. Pity. Rambutans-- red golf-ball sized fruits with thick curly hairs sprouting from it, and a fragrant sweet white juicy flesh inside. "Dragon's eyes", or longans- black shiny seeds and translucent soft flesh a la eyeballs. And that thorny monster, durian, called the king of fruits and with a huge fan base sitting in front of their calendars counting down to this year's durian season, and an equally huge hate group pinching their noses at its very acquired stench.
We left, our bags loaded with goodies, my mum all pumped with ideas for dinner, and me, well, yawning. I love Saturday mornings at the market.