Thursday, February 23, 2006


The market

Chela asked if I would like to help make Tamales for New Years—of course I would! She said to be at her house by 9 the next morning and we would go to the market to get the ingredients, then we’d make tamales.

When I arrived the next morning she was ready with her basket and we walked several blocks to a big market that covered a square block, both inside and outside a large open building. That’s Chela in the black and white shirt.

Chela hit the market like a woman on a mission. She seemed to know each of the vendors and greeted them warmly, as Ecuadoreans do, before getting down to it. Then she was all business, squeezing, sniffing, accepting or rejecting fruits, vegetables, meat; politely, but firmly insisting on their best price. The basket grew heavier and heavier.

I was fascinated by the bags of different grains, the variety of beans and vegetables I had never seen before.

Inside the market there was a large section devoted to fresh meat. Chela bought pork for the tamales and fresh shrimp for ceviche.

The woman in the stall with the colorful bottles of soda pop was frying llapingachos, which are fried patties of mashed potato with cheese inside—delicious! After I took her picture she handed me a llapingacho and a piece of the roast pork you see, on a paper napkin. She gave Chela a similar sample and we left the market happily enjoying our treats.

Oh, the market looks lovely! I was talking to a woman from Mexico one time who was so excited--she was going to make tamales that afternoon when she got home. Remembering Mom's wonderful tamales, I told her how envious I was because I "just luuuuuuv" tamales. She said she hadn't been able to make any for some time because it was so difficult to find a pig's head around here. "You mean, like a real head?!!" I squeaked. She was amazed that anyone would buy a nice big piece of pork and cut it up for tamales. "That's what the head is for--you can get lots of really good meat from the snout." She brought me a couple of tamales the next day and I have to admit, they were wonderful. But I really had concentrate on the tamale part and chase away any visions of pink snouts as chewed. Happy to see no snouts, ears, or jowls poking out of your basket!
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