A Brazilian Street Market

A Street Market in Brazil

                Street markets in Brazilian cities seem to spring up out of nowhere. Where cars had travelled and people had walked the day before, now an explosion of stalls has cascaded into the street as if by magic. Along with the myriad of foods and small items for the home that have appeared, there are also the voices of hawkers selling their wares.  Mixed in is the chatter of those who have come to buy is the click of the small wheels of shopping carts. At one stall the chatter of parakeets and the songs of other small birds provide the sounds of nature.

The stalls that find their place at daybreak are fashioned so they fit together quickly on sawhorses along with a frame that holds the canvas that protects from the sun or rain. In a few minutes the trucks unload their wares, then with enticing voices the owners advertise their products. Shortly after lunch the reverse process occurs and the street cleaners come to sweep away the garbage. The same market will appear with the same magic in other areas of the city every day of the week.

Though there are shopping centres that sell everything one finds in a street market, yet the colours and sound of a street market attract all types of people.  There you will find the well-dressed, tight-jeaned lady of the house that shops there because she enjoys the experience.  The ordinary housewife who values both freshness and price is also there but many of those who pull their little carts are the maids sent to do this menial work.

Let us take a walk between these stalls and imagine we are buying groceries for a home. Oh no! We can’t start till we have an add-on to our early breakfast. We stop where gleaming coffee machines pour out the strong cafezinho into demi-tasse cups. We load it with sugar so that it will go down easily plus give us energy for the hour or so ahead. Ah, before we go further the aroma of a pastel stall stops us and we buy one. The pastel is a shell of something like a light pie crust about four square inches and mostly empty except for the meat, cheese or palm heart that is inside. The pastel is handed to us hot on a folded piece of paper. Those pasteis (plural for pastel) are deep fried so one will be enough.

The next stall has red onions piled two feet high right next to layers of romaine lettuce. Then there are oranges and lemons and sweet potatoes and the jobuticaba fruit that looks like plums. Then we see persimmons and our mouths water. We buy a couple of persimmons on the spot for we’ll eat them right there and maybe stain our hankies.  The taste lifts one into a seventh heaven. Now notice that there are not only lots of bananas but different kinds and none quite like the ones we buy in Canada. We pass other stalls full of fruits and vegetables most of which we have never seen. Of course at home we have avocados and mangoes but the ones in the street market are bigger, juicier and tastier.

Then we almost stumble over the flower stalls for they extend out in the area left for walking. Just look at all the different kinds of long stemmed roses, gladiolas and so many colours of chrysanthemums. Right next is a stall with vertical shelves full of things such as can openers, knives and spatulas with plastic containers and brooms stacked out front. We sense the aroma of the next stall before we crowd up to it for there is spread out all kinds of cheeses and cured meats. An orange tarp is suspended over these foods and with the sunshine it lends an enticing orange glow to the cheeses. But what makes my mouth water is the mortandela that a person might compare to baloney. But they are continents apart in taste. The secret to the taste is unknown to me though the peppercorns may help. I remember a friend who was so addicted to mortandela that he filled a suitcase with it when he returned to the U.S. Me? I’ve thought of that but never had the courage to try getting it past customs.

If you can name it, there is a stall for it. But there comes an end to all good things so after a block or so there is an area where you can buy a jacket or cap. Hey, that’s a good idea for you can pick up something with Brazil sewed into it and have a fine souvenir advertising where you have travelled.

We turn away from the market and all the good foods that later will be part of a delicious meal. I recall that there is another hunger we’ve all had. It can only be satisfied with a lively faith in God. Was it not Jesus who said of himself, “I am the bread of life: he who comes to me will never go hungry.” He reminds us that we each need something more than food and drink. With that in mind we end our lively excursion through a Brazilian street market with all of its sights, sounds and delicious foods.

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