Thursday, September 13, 2007

Market Matters

Exercise 9

My first day out in the market; I search in vain for an apple. I’m so thrilled I go to the first stand I see and choose the densest, freshest apple I can get my hands on. In actually does the fruit even matter? I mean I’ve eating an uncountable number of apples in my life. Truthfully I want to use the fruit as a prop in my theatrics to fit in. As I finish paying the 30 centesimi, I almost skip over to the water fountain. Washing my apple under the constant stream of liquid and then walking away as it crunches beneath my teeth, makes me feel the most Italian I have ever felt in my life. I even pause to take a gander at the other vendors as I walk to the opposite end of the campo. My moment of truth: a woman steps in my way, and I confidently say “Scusa”. She scoots sideways without giving me a second glance and responds with the traditional “Prego.” I consciously mark it as my informal induction to Rome.

I made a vendor gasp. Note to self, never try to use a five Euro bill in the market when just buying one tomato.

Yesterday I ate some fresh figs on a pie. I’ve never seen those Granny-Smith-apple-green figs before, nor had I ever eaten figs fresh. Today I went in search of figs in the market. My choices were green, purple and Indian. I decided to stick with the green. At a stand near the side of the Campo, the vendor shoved a clear plastic bag out and I grab it with some hesitation. He knew I was eyeing the figs. My uneasiness must have shone through my facial expression because he quickly grabbed the bag back. All I could muster was a weak “tre” as I held up three fingers while I pointed at the fruit with the other hand. He weighed it out and charged me 50 centesimi. Before our transaction completed, he slipped another fig into my bag with a wink of an eye.

I bought a peach today. The woman who sold it to me, had wiry hair, and an old wrinkly face. It reminded me of a partially dehydrated Shar Pei, you know, those dogs whose eyes hide under the folds of their face. Well she greeted me with a sweetly drawn out “Buonjourno” and a crinkle-your-eye smile. How could I say no. Of course I had to by the peach. Good thing peaches are in season.

This morning I entered the Campo and smelled some stinky fish. Another booth has been added in the corner. As I gaze around, I notice many more vendors jigsawed into the previously free spaces before we left for Firenze. This must be the market’s full potential. Time to explore. I return successfully with a paper bag of tomatoes.

My internal alarm clock woke me up at 7:13AM. I would normally go back to sleep, but I haven’t perused the market for the past few days and I miss the morning booths of food. Automatically I change into street-appropriate clothing and march out, ready to buy. To my astonishment, they were still setting up. I was too early for the market. This has never happened before. I felt like the poor person who goes out Sunday morning for the opening of their favorite store, but gets denied by the harsh “fall-back” daylight savings. Except I came to realize, this happens six days of the week in the Campo, I’ve just never experienced it before.

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